Making Sense of Ego Depletion: The Replication Crisis, a Path Forward, and Lessons for Accounting Researchers
Hurley, P.J. 2022. Making sense of ego depletion: The replication crisis, a path forward, and lessons for accounting researchers. Auditing: A Journal of Practice & Theory (forthcoming).
43 Pages Posted: 26 Mar 2021 Last revised: 17 Nov 2022
Date Written: September 2, 2022
Ego depletion, an influential social psychology theory that has been applied in auditing research, is currently in crisis following unsuccessful attempts to replicate the phenomenon. I summarize the questions surrounding ego depletion as a phenomenon and the strength model of self-control as its theoretical explanation. Existing evidence suggests depletion is a real phenomenon, but that its effect is likely overstated in prior literature. However, it seems that the strength model is not the best theoretical explanation for depletion. To provide a path forward to continue investigating this phenomenon, I describe four alternative theories from prior literature. Highlighting motivation as a common thread in these theories, I then propose a new theory that views ego depletion as transient cognitive fatigue. Finally, I discuss opportunities for future research in auditing, best practices for the design of these studies, and meta-lessons that accounting researchers can take from crises in psychology research.
Keywords: Ego Depletion, Theory, Cognitive Fatigue, Mental Fatigue, Auditing; Self-Control; Self-Regulation
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