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Department of Psychology
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Committee Member 2
Ego depletion is defined as the loss of self-control resulting from prior acts of self-control. Several tasks cause ego depletion, including effortful cognitive tasks. I proposed that lying would create ego depletion due to the cognitive control associated with telling a lie. I further anticipated that the potential embarrassment associated with getting "caught" in a lie would cause additional ego depletion among participants. In the proposed study, we asked participants to lie to a confederate and either gave them the impression they would be caught in the lie or gave them a clear indication that they would not be caught in the lie. A control group was not asked to lie. I anticipated that ego depletion would be demonstrated among those asked to lie by failing to persist on a computer task relative to participants who were not asked to lie. In addition, of those asked to lie, I expected more ego depletion to result from the expectation of being caught telling a lie relative to the condition in which participants were led to believe they would not be caught. Finally, I assessed trait honesty as a potential covariate in this study. Results showed that those people who lied completed significantly fewer computer trials than those who did not lie, indicating ego depletion relative to the control condition. The act of creating a lie requires an individual to engage in cognitive effort, such as memory, improvisation, and creative thinking, and cognitive energy has been tied to deficits in self-control (i.e., ego depletion). Lack of a difference between the two lie conditions may indicate that the lie itself was highly distressing, and the added burden of being caught lying was not sufficient to overcome the ceiling effect that already existed. As an alternative explanation, all participants may have assumed they would be caught in the lie when they encountered the other student on campus after the study.
Summerlin, Shannon A. Jr, "The Truth About Lying: Does a Lie Cause Ego Depletion?" (2015). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 1232.