Performance on standardized academic aptitude tests (AAT) can determine important life outcomes. However, it is not clear whether and which aspects of the content of test questions affect performance. We examined the effect of psychological distance embedded in test questions. In Study 1 (N = 41,209), we classified the content of existing AAT questions as invoking proximal versus distal details. We found better performance with proximal compared to distal questions, especially for low-achieving examinees. Studies 2 and 3 manipulated the distance of questions adapted from AATs and examined three moderators: overall AAT score, working-memory capacity, and presence of irrelevant information. In Study 2 (N = 129), proximity (versus distance) improved the performance of low-achieving participants. In Study 3 (N = 1744), a field study, among low-achieving examinees, proximity improved performance on questions that included irrelevant information. Together, these results suggest that the psychological distance that is invoked by the content of test questions has important consequences for performance in real-life high-stakes tests.
|Journal||npj Science of Learning|
|State||Published - Dec 2023|
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
B.H. thanks Jael Fafner and Mor Tsoffi for their help. N.L. and T.K. were supported by the National Institute for testing and Evaluation. N.L. and B.H. were supported by grant 524/17 by the Israel Science Foundation.
© 2023, The Author(s).