Cognitive performance is enhanced if one knows when the task will end

Maayan Katzir, Aviv Emanuel, Nira Liberman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations

Abstract

In two studies, participants performed a switching task, and we provided to only half of them feedback on goal progress (how much of the task still remains). Importantly, this feedback did not inform participants on how well they performed. We found that participants in the feedback condition achieved a higher asymptotic level of performance, reported less fatigue and took shorter breaks between blocks compared to the control condition. These results suggest that asymptotic level of performance reflects not only ability (as is commonly assumed in the literature) but also motivation. We suggest that when people know when a focal task would end, they invest more effort in it because foregoing other activities becomes less costly (i.e., opportunity cost of engaging in the focal activity decreases) and because knowing when a task would end frees the actor from the need to conserve effort. These results suggest a simple, effective and costless way to improve cognitive performance that may be applied in educational and organizational settings.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104189
JournalCognition
Volume197
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier B.V.

Funding

The research reported in this paper was supported by an Israel Science Foundation grant # 524/17 to N. L and by funds from the Argentina Chair for Social Psychology , granted to N.L. Appendix A

FundersFunder number
Israel Science Foundation524/17

    Keywords

    • Cognitive resources
    • Effort allocation
    • Goal gradient
    • Opportunity cost

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