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Abstract

Although everyday life is often demanding, it remains unclear how demanding conditions impact self-regulation. Some theories suggest that demanding conditions impair self-regulation, by undermining autonomy, interfering with skilled performance and working memory, and depleting energy resources. Other theories, however, suggest that demanding conditions improve self-regulation by mobilizing super-ordinate control processes. The present article integrates both kinds of theories by proposing that the self-regulatory impact of demanding conditions depends on how people adapt to such conditions. When people are action-oriented, demanding conditions may lead to improved self-regulation. When people are state-oriented, demanding conditions may lead to impaired self-regulation. Consistent with this idea, action versus state orientation strongly moderates the influence of demands on self-regulatory performance. The impact of demanding conditions on self-regulation is thus not fixed, but modifiable by psychological processes.