Going to the gym may make you less likely to perform a favour.

Going to the gym may make you less likely to perform a favour.

Feelings of guilt are important drivers of prosocial behaviour. If we feel guilty about something, we are more likely to do a favour for someone else.
Ego depletion is a state in which our combined resource for emotional, physical and mental effort has been drained by exertion in one of those areas, and has not had time to recover.
If someone is in a state of ego depletion they are less able to feel guilty and are therefore less likely to participate in prosocial behaviour – that is, behaviour which helps other people or society in general. Therefore, if you have had a hard session in the gym you are likely to be ego-depleted and are therefore less likely to perform a favour for someone else.
Begue and Bushman tested this hypothesis by getting their participants to watch a horrible film, but half of them had to suppress their emotions (one way of producing a state of ego-depletion). All the participants then took part in a game in which they saw other people being punished for the participants’ errors. This was designed to induce feelings of guilt. Finally, the participants were given the opportunity to donate, anonymously, to a charity. The people who had been told to suppress their emotions felt less guilty than the others, and were less likely to donate to the charity.

A hard session at the gym decreases your ability to resist temptation.

A hard session at the gym decreases your ability to resist temptation.

Physical, emotional and mental effort all seem to draw from the same attentional resource. This pool of attention is limited and a period of effort in any of these forms runs down this resource. It’s exhaustion leaves us in a state known as ego-depletion. In this state we are less able to concentrate well at physical, emotional or mental tasks. We are also less able to exert will power when faced a tempting offer.
Baumeister et al conducted several experiments in which people had to make themselves eat radishes instead of chocolates, suppress their emotions or make difficult calculations and so on. They then had to perform another task requiring will power or concentration. The emotionally, mentally or physically tired people would perform the second task less well than those who had not had to do the first one. For example, if they had been thinking hard about a mathematics problem, they would then be more likely to choose a chocolate cake to eat than a salad.
The psychologists’ conclusion was that “the self’s capacity for active volition is limited and that a range of seemingly different, unrelated acts share a common resource.”
So, next time you come out of the gym after a hard session, beware of advertisements. You are far more likely to succumb to temptation than you were before you went in.

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