Too exhausted to remember: Ego depletion undermines subsequent event-based prospective memory

Jianbin LI, Yan-Gang NIE, Min-Xia ZENG, Meghan HUNTOON, Jessi L. SMITH

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

6 Citations (Scopus)


Past research has consistently found that people are likely to do worse on high-level cognitive tasks after exerting self-control on previous actions. However, little has been unraveled about to what extent ego depletion affects subsequent prospective memory. Drawing upon the self-control strength model and the relationship between self-control resources and executive control, this study proposes that the initial actions of self-control may undermine subsequent event-based prospective memory (EBPM). Ego depletion was manipulated through watching a video requiring visual attention (Experiment 1) or completing an incongruent Stroop task (Experiment 2). Participants were then tested on EBPM embedded in an ongoing task. As predicted, the results showed that after ruling out possible intervening variables (e.g. mood, focal and nonfocal cues, and characteristics of ongoing task and ego depletion task), participants in the high-depletion condition performed significantly worse on EBPM than those in the low-depletion condition. The results suggested that the effect of ego depletion on EBPM was mainly due to an impaired prospective component rather than to a retrospective component. Copyright © 2013 International Union of Psychological Science.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1303-1312
JournalInternational Journal of Psychology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2013



Li, J.-B., Nie, Y.-G., Zeng, M.-X., Huntoon, M., & Smith, J. L. (2013). Too exhausted to remember: Ego depletion undermines subsequent event-based prospective memory. International Journal of Psychology, 48(6), 1303-1312. doi: 10.1080/00207594.2012.762778


  • Self-control resources
  • Ego depletion
  • Event-based prospective memory
  • Executive control