Achievement Goals and Mental Arithmetic: The Role of Distributed Cognition

AbstractThe purpose of these studies was to investigate the role of distributed cognition in defusing the impact of evaluative pressure caused by performance-approach goals on mental arithmetic performance. Performance-approach goals can generate worrying thoughts that can deplete working memory resources. However, some of these working memory limitations can be compensated by off-loading the internal cognitive process to the external environment. We tested this prediction in two experiments. Participants carried out modular arithmetic tasks in a performance-approach goal or mastery-approach goal condition crossed with interactivity or no interactivity. Performance-approach goal manipulation hampered cognitive performance (accuracies), (Experiment 1). However, these negative effects were defused with the help of interactivity (Experiment 2). Interestingly, the mastery-focused individuals had a performance drop in the interactive condition (Experiment 1 and Experiment 2). Finally, experiment 2 reported higher maths anxiety levels for the performance-focused individuals. Reasons for the findings and future implications will be discussed.

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