The implications of ego depletion for the ethics and politics of manipulation

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


A significant body of research suggests that self-control and willpower are resources that become depleted as they are exercised. Having to exert self-control and willpower draws down a person’s reservoir of these resources and makes subsequent such exercises more difficult. This ego depletion renders individuals more susceptible to manipulation by exerting non rational influences on individual choice and conduct. In particular, ego depletion results in later choices being less governable by a person’s powers of self-control and willpower than earlier choices. This chapter draws out three implications of this phenomenon: (1) manipulation can exploit ego depletion through the fashioning of social environments that tax willpower or self-control; (2) ego depletion undermines the Platonic-Aristotelian picture of character and strength of will;and (3) ego depletion needs to be a more central focus of theorists of justice,since it appears to be a significant contributor to poverty and other persistent injustices.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationManipulation
Subtitle of host publicationTheory and Practice
EditorsChristian Coons, Michael Weber
Place of PublicationOxford; New York
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages20
ISBN (Print)9780199338207, 9780199338214
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • self-control
  • willpower
  • ego depletion
  • character
  • manipulation
  • rational choice
  • sources of poverty

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