Feeling Depleted and Powerless: The Construal-Level Mechanism

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Individuals exercise self-control daily to achieve desired goals; at the same time, people engage in social interaction daily and influence (feel powerful) or are influenced (feel powerless) by others. Does controlling the self have an unforeseen consequence for people’s perception of their capacity to control others? Five studies—one correlational and four experimental—demonstrate that ego depletion from prior self-control determines one’s personal sense of power; low-level, concrete mental construals account for this relationship. Our results showed that people with higher trait self-control reported a greater sense of power (Study 1). People who had depleted their self-control-related regulatory resources (vs. those who had not) experienced a lower sense of power (Study 2). The relationship between ego depletion and low sense of power was mediated by construal level (Study 3) and observed only when low-level, concrete construals were present, but not under high-level, abstract construals (Studies 4 and 5).


PMID: 25725036