Journal of Applied Social Psychology

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Volume 46 Issue 2 (February 2016), Pages 79-139

Does counting to ten increase or decrease aggression? The role of state self‐control (ego‐depletion) and consequences (pages 105-113)


In this investigation, we experimentally test the interaction of ego‐depletion (low state self‐control), consequences, and decision‐making time on aggressive responses to an insult from a confederate. The results indicate that ego‐depleted participants respond more quickly and aggressively to an insult from a confederate. However, when a 30‐ second decision‐making delay is imposed, ego‐depleted participants reduce their aggression, but only if there are external consequences to being aggressive. In the absence of such consequences, ego‐depleted participants become more aggressive following a delay. Additionally, if a distracting cognitive load disrupts the 30‐ second delay, aggression levels do not change significantly, even if there are consequences. These results suggest people respond to aggressive triggers more impulsively when ego‐depleted.

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