A Novel Approach to Investigate the Impact of Mindset and Physiology on the Choice to Invest Effort During an Arithmetic Task

Authors:  Smiddy Nieuwenhuis, Tieme W. P. Janssen, Denise J. van der Mee, Farah A. Rahman, Martijn Meeter, Nienke M. van Atteveldt


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Growth mindset, the belief that personal attributes such as intelligence are malleable, has previously been related to more effort investment. Here, we investigated how undergraduates’ mindset (N = 114) relates to the choice to invest effort during an arithmetic task, indexed by whether they make low vs. high effort-related choices. Social cognitive theory suggests that past performance experiences (mastery vs. failure) and physiological state are important sources for competence self-evaluations. Therefore, in addition to mindset, we also investigated how effort-related choices are influenced more dynamically, by failures and physiological responses during the task. Growth mindset and physiological effort mobilization did not predict effort-related choices but making mistakes did predict lower effort choices in the subsequent round. This study further supports the importance of mastery experiences for effort investment and provides a novel approach for integrating different levels of influence on effort-related choices during an educationally-relevant task.