Self-control, or self-regulation, has been defined as one’s
capacity to override emotions, thoughts, or behaviours and instead avert these
actions/responses and replace them with more desirable, or preferential ones
(Baumeister & Heatherton, 1996). Self-control can seem a rather abstract
concept, in terms of one’s ability to quantify it. However, according to the
self-control strength model it can, in fact, be thought of as a finite but
renewable internal resource that is expended when one attempts to exert control
over their emotions, thoughts, or behaviours (Baumeister, Bratslavsky, Muraven,
& Tice, 1998).
Evidence to support this can be found in the literature, a
meta-analysis of 83 studies that tested
the effect of depleted self-control and its effect on task performance found that
when self-control was exerted on an initial task, an individual’s ability to
exert self-control depleted significantly on subsequent tasks, independent of
the task domain (Hagger, Wood, Stiff, and Chatzisarantis, 2010). However, other
researchers have proposed that exertion of self-control exertion instead
accompanied by shifts in emotion, attention, and motivation and reject the
finite resource explanation provided by Baumeister et al (Inzlicht &
Schmeichel, 2012). Despite this disagreement the literature doesn’t debate the
outcome of self-control exertion impairing performance on subsequent physical
tasks as the large body of data concurs with this point.
One such study that provides evidence for this relationship is a
study by Boat and Taylor (2017). The aim of this study was to investigate
whether, or to what degree would, prior self-control exertion would have on
performance in a subsequent physical task, and to what degree could pain
perception explain differences in results. Conducted in a counterbalanced
within-subject design, sixty three participants completed either an easy Stroop
or hard Stroop task, then were put into a wall-sit position and required to
remain in this position until they quit of their own volition. Pain perception
was recorded immediately following this. The results revealed that there was a
significant effect on the hard Stroop trial and wall sit performance (F(1,60) ¼
7.62, p ¼ 0.01, r ¼ .78). Participants quit earlier after the hard Stoop (M ¼
130.20, SE ¼ 8.98), compared to those who complete the easy Stroop (M ¼ 147.07,
SE ¼ 9.31). Showing, perhaps in accordance with the self-control strength model
that self-control, as a resource, was ‘spent’ a lot more on the hard Stroop
than the easy Stroop, meaning less was left for use on the wall-sit test.
Another study that correlated self-control exertion and physical
performance was by Graham, Bray, Kathleen, and Ginis (2013). The aim was to
study the aftereffects of anticipating future self-control and motivation on
patterns of self-control strength depletion. Seventy two participants performed
four self-control trial:
anticipation/autonomy-supportive motivation (n ¼ 19),
anticipation/controlling motivation (n ¼ 17), no anticipation/autonomy-supportive
motivation (n ¼ 18), and no anticipation/controlling motivation (n ¼ 18). In
this single-blind, counterbalanced, study the results showed that those who
anticipated self-control depletion orientated tasks in the future conserved
resources on the second task by completing fewer words on the Stroop test, i.e.
conserving self-control like a resource in order to distribute it more evenly
for more consistent results across the physical tasks.
To further expand upon the literature previously discussed, the aims
of the current research was to examine the effect of self-control exertion on
wall-sit performance, and perceptions of exercise related pain and motivation
in relation to this. This was to address the problem in previous literature on
this specific subject, that it did not specifically investigate the effect of
self-control exertions on motivation, creating the novelty in the current
study. It was hypothesised that those who exerted self-control in the more
cognitively challenging Stroop test would have/experience higher perceptions of
pain, and decreased motivation. Leading to poorer performances on the wall-sit
The participants in the study were 78 in number (58 male,
20 female), with ages ranging from 18 to 24 years old (M age = 18.8 years, SD =
1.05 years). As answered in the general health questionnaire completed before
the test, the most common response (N = 52) to days of exercise each week was 3
to 5 days.
Having been approved by a
university ethics committee, all participants were required to complete
university approved general health questionnaire and assessed healthy.
Furthermore, informed consent forms were signed by all once the study was
explained in full, and those participating were aware of the fact this was entirely
anonymous and voluntary.
The research study was conducted in a within-subject
design, counterbalanced in that the participants did not all undergo the same
Stroop test in session one and two, to avoid learning effects impacting
results. As mentioned above, participants were required to complete a health
questionnaire and sign informed consent forms before the test could take place.
Along with not eating 2 hours before the test session, and avoiding strenuous
exercise, as well as consuming caffeine and alcohol, on test days among the
other pre-test requirements.
Upon arrival, basic pre-test information was gathered,
before briefing the participants on the nature of the Stoop task, and the study
as a whole. Once informed, participants were asked to practice the wall-sit
position in order for experimenters to ensure the position was understood
before engaging in the test, referring to the ‘wall-sit procedure’ sheet
provided. The participants will then complete the Stoop task, easy or hard, for
four minutes, during which one experimenter checked the participant was not
missing words, while the other kept time. The hard Stroop consists of colours
written on a sheet of paper in a different colour to the one they describe, so
the participant must override the innate impulse to read the word, and instead
say the colour of this word (Englert and Wolff, 2015). Whereas in the easy
Stroop one must simply say the colour as written.
Once the Stroop (the
independent variable) is completed the participant must complete a ‘CR10
Scale’, for mental exertion, and assume the wall-sit position immediately, and
the stopwatch should begin. Measurements of pain and motivation were taken,
using the VAS, 20 seconds into the wall-sit, and just before drop-out. Afterwards,
performance time (the dependent variable) was recorded and entered into a table
of results. Other dependent variables include motivation, and pain.
program used for analysis was IBM SPSS Statistics 24, in order to analyse both
the independent, and dependent, variables results. T tests were used on each
variable, wall-sit performance time, pain at the end, and motivation at the
end. With the statistical level of significance being represented in P values
equalling or lesser to 0.05.
Self-Control (Hard Stroop) (Mean ±SD)
Non Self-Control (Easy Stroop) (Mean ±SD)
CR10 Score (1-10)
6.05 ± 2.07
2.08 ± 1.97
Wall Sit Performance (Sec)
194.28 ± 123.23
214.33 ± 134.84
Pain at End Hard Stroop (1-10)
8.91 ± 1.31
8.35 ± 1.70
Motivation at End, Hard Stroop (1-10)
5.91 ± 2.67
6.14 ± 2.96
can be seen in Figure 1, the CR10 score which was responsible for evaluating
the participants perceived mental exertion clearly shows that the easy Stroop
(M = 2.08, SD = 1.97) was less cognitively challenging than the hard Stoop (M =
6.05, SD = 2.07).
the use of SPSS Statistics 24 a paired samples t-test was conducted on wall sit
performance in relation to the hard Stoop and easy Stoop. The paired samples
t-test showed a statistically significant difference (refer to Figure 2)
between the hard and easy Stroop, wall sit performance (t(77) = -3.12, p =
.003), representing a large-sized effect (d = 0.907). Specifically, the hard
Stroop (M = 194.28, SD = 123.23) compared to the easy Stroop (M = 214.33, SD =
134.84). Looking into this in more detail, motivation at the start also showed
a statistically significant difference between hard and easy Stroop (t(77) =
-0.759, p = .450), representing a medium-sized effect (d = 0.538).
Specifically, the hard Stroop (M = 5.91, SD = 2.67) compared to the easy Stroop
(M = 6.14, SD = 2.96).
Following on logically from this, a
paired samples t-test was done on pain at the end of the wall-sit. This showed
a statistically significant difference between hard and easy Stroop in pain at
the end of the test (t(77) = 2.94, p = .004), representing a small-sized effect
(d = 0.396). Specifically, the hard Stroop (M = 8.91, SD = 1.31) compared to
the easy Stroop (M = 8.35, SD = 1.70) once again.
The current study investigated the effects exerting
self-control would have on physical performance (wall-sit), specifically
examining potential relationships between this and pain/motivation. In
congruence with the hypothesis, those who exerted more self-control on the hard
Stroop were found to experience higher perceptions of pain (M = 8.91 in the
hard Stroop compared to M = 8.35 in the control), than those in the control
group. Representing a small effect statistically (d = 0.396), this can actually
be linked to motivation as in 1988 a study by Litt (M.D.) found that changes in
self efficacy, a theory of motivation, predicted changes in pain tolerance.
Perhaps explaining why as motivation decreased in the experimental condition,
pain perception increased. As can be suggested by the data, motivation
decreased in the experimental condition, perhaps implying that self-control
strength could be a regulator of one’s motivation, and, in turn, one’s
experience of pain. However, the data on effect on pain at the end of the wall-sit
(d = 0.538) showing a medium sized effect seems significant, given the
respective p value (p = .450) the effect seems likely down to variable chance.
looking into pain perception, the effect in the experimental condition…