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Motivation and Self-Control: Implicit Motives Moderate the Exertion of Self-Control in Motive-Related Tasks


  • This research was supported by a grant from the German Research Foundation (GR3577/2-1). We gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Andrea Kupčuláková, Stephanie Klee, and Andreas Grabisch for data collection.


Using a dual-task paradigm, two experiments tested whether aroused implicit motives would moderate the exertion of self-control in motive-related tasks. In Study 1, 67 participants first watched a power dialogue and were then asked to either enact the dialogue or simply reproduce it by writing it down. In Study 2, 74 participants performed either the frustrating or the simple version of an achievement-related sensorimotor task. Participants who were high (compared to low) on the implicit power motive and had exerted power over another person subsequently showed more success at controlling their emotional responses (Study 1). Participants who were high (compared to low) on the implicit achievement motive and who had mastered a frustrating sensorimotor task scored better on a subsequent Stroop task (Study 2). Participants in the control conditions did not differ in self-control performance regardless of their level of implicit motives. These studies provide evidence that aroused implicit motives regulate how much self-control is exerted when performing motive-related tasks that require self-control.