Individual differences and self-regulatory fatigue: Optimism, conscientiousness, and self-consciousness

Lise Solberg Nes, Charles R. Carlson, Leslie J. Crofford, Reny de Leeuw, Suzanne C. Segerstrom

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Ability to self-regulate varies and self-regulatory strength is a limited source that can be depleted or fatigued. Research on the impact of individual differences on self-regulatory capacity is still scarce, and this study aimed to examine whether personality factors such as dispositional optimism, conscientiousness, and self-consciousness can impact or buffer self-regulatory fatigue. Participants were patients diagnosed with chronic multi-symptom illnesses (N= 50), or pain free matched controls (N= 50), randomly assigned to either a high or low self-regulation task, followed by a persistence task. Higher optimism predicted longer persistence (p= .04), and there was a trend towards the same effect for conscientiousness (p= .08). The optimism by self-regulation interaction was significant (p= .01), but rather than persisting despite self-regulatory effort, optimists persisted longer only when not experiencing self-regulatory fatigue. The effects of optimism were stronger for controls than patients. There was also a trend towards a similar conscientiousness by self-regulation interaction (p= .06). These results suggest that the well-established positive impact of optimism and conscientiousness on engagement and persistence may be diminished or reversed in the presence of self-regulatory effort or fatigue, adding an important new chapter to the self-regulation, personality, and pain literature.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)475-480
Number of pages6
JournalPersonality and Individual Differences
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2011


  • Conscientiousness
  • Dispositional optimism
  • Self-regulation
  • Self-regulatory fatigue
  • Selfconsciousness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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