ERIC Number: ED170057
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1979-Mar
Reference Count: 0
The Development of Cognitive Mediation of Difficulty Level Preferences with Different Difficulty Cues.
Nicholls, John G.
This study examines the development of children's preference for task difficulty levels. Subjects were 78 boys and 66 girls, aged 63 to 105 months. The sample was separated into older and younger groups. Within each age group, half the children of each sex were randomly assigned to one of two forms to test their level of aspiration. Subjects were shown three boxes which, they were told, contained puzzles. In Form I, numbers of children who could do each task (most, about half, only a few) were communicated to subjects orally and with reference to three color-coded cards, one placed on each box. In Form II, the tasks were described as "easy,""not easy or hard," or "hard." Cards with E, M, and H were placed on the boxes. Children's beliefs about the task on which it would be most impressive to succeed were elicited. Results indicate that young children prefer easy tasks under both the labeling and performance norm conditions. They do not understand that difficult tasks demand more ability than easy tasks nor that it is more impressive to succeed on difficult tasks. The abstractness of difficulty cues, rather than the cognitive demands of inferring difficulty and ability from performance norms, is said to account for young children's preference for easy tasks. The advantage of describing development in terms of maturity of cognitive mediators (understanding difficulty cues) rather than changes in overt behavior (difficulty level preferences) is emphasized. (Author/RH)
Publication Type: Speeches/Meeting Papers; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Note: Paper presented at the Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development (San Francisco, California, March 15-18, 1979)