How students build their performance expectancies: The importance of need for cognition

Abstract

Individual differences in need for cognition (NFC) have been found to correspond with differences in information processing. Individuals with lower NFC process information using a peripheral route compared to individuals higher in NFC. These differences may effect the formation of performance expectancies. Based on previous work demonstrating that the formation of performance expectancies can be understood as an information-processing event and that inferring expectancies from the specific self-concept requires cognitive motivation, we tested whether students with higher NFC had performance expectancies in a specific subject that more strongly depended on their specific self-concept. Three hundred seventy-five students from grade 8 and 9 reported their NFC, their performance expectancies for the final report card in Mathematics and German, the general self-concept, and specific self-concepts in Mathematics and German. Multiple linear regressions supported the interaction hypothesis concerning performance expectancies in Mathematics and German. The higher the students’ NFC, the stronger performance expectancies were related to the corresponding specific self-concept. Individual differences in NFC influence motivational processes and should be included in models describing the relation between self-concepts and students’ beliefs like expectancies.

Résumé

Comment les étudiants construisent-ils leurs attentes en termes de performances? L’importance de need for cognition. Les différences individuelles en matière de NFC (Need for Cognition) correspondent aux différentes manières de traiter les informations. Les individus dont le NFC est plutôt bas traitent les informations en utilisant une route périphérique en comparaison avec ceux dont le NFC est élevé. Ces différences peuvent affecter le développement des attentes en termes de performances. À la suite de précédentes études qui ont démontré que le développement de ces attentes peut être interprété comme une opération de traitement des informations et que le fait d’interférer avec ces attentes du point de vue spécifique du concept de soi exige une motivation cognitive, nous avons voulu vérifier si les étudiants ayant de NFC plus élevé avaient des attentes en termes de performances dans une discipline précise qui dépendent plus fortement du concept de soi spécifique. 375 étudiants de 4ème et 3ème nous ont fait parvenir leurs NFC, leurs attentes en termes de performance vis-à-vis de leurs résultats de fin d’année scolaire en mathématiques et en allemand, leur idée du concept de soi général ainsi que le concept de soi spécifique aux mathématiques et à l’allemand. Des régressions linéaires multiples viennent confirmer l’hypothèse d’interaction concernant les attentes en termes de performances en mathématiques et en allemand. Plus le niveau de NFC de l’étudiant est élevé, plus ses attentes en termes de performances sont liées au concept de soi spécifique correspondant. Les différences individuelles influencent les processus motivationnels de NFC et devraient être inclus dans les modèles décrivant la relation entre les concepts de soi et les convictions des étudiants telles que leurs attentes.

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Acknowledgments

The studies reported in this article were supported by a grant from the German Research Foundation to Oliver Dickhäuser (DI 929/2-3) and Marc-André Reinhard (RE 2218/1-3).

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Correspondence to Oliver Dickhäuser.

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Oliver Dickhäuser. Department of Psychology, School of Social Sciences, University of Mannheim, Germany, D-68131 Mannheim. E-mail: oliver.dickhaeuser@uni-mannheim.de; Web site: http://paed-psych.uni-mannheim.de

Current themes of research:

Motivational and cognitive processes in education. Teacher motivation. Context effects in education. Accuracy of teacher judgments.

Most relevant publications in the field of Psychology of Education:

Dickhäuser, O. (2005). Teachers’ inferences about students’ self-concepts—the role of dimensional comparison. Learning and Instruction, 15, 226–235.

Dickhäuser, O., & Reinhard, M.-A. (2006). Factors underlying expectancies of success and achievement: The influential roles of need for cognition and general or specific self-concepts. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 90, 490–500.

Dickhäuser, O., Reinhard, M.-A., Diener, C., & Bertrams, A. (2009). How need for cognition affects the processing of achievement-related information. Learning and Individual Differences, 19, 283–287.

Dickhäuser, O., Reuter, M., & Hilling, C. (2005). Coursework selection: A frame of reference-approach using structural equation modelling. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 75, 673–688.

Dickhäuser, O., & Stiensmeier-Pelster, J. (2002). Gender differences in computer work—Evidence for the model of achievement-related choices. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 27, 486–496.

Marc-André Reinhard. Department of Psychology, School of Social Sciences, University of Mannheim, Germany, D-68131 Mannheim. E-mail: reinhard@rumms.uni-mannheim.de; Web site: http://www.sowi.uni-mannheim.de/lehrstuehle/lssozpsych/

Current themes of research:

Expectancy formation and expectancy effects. Lie detection in educational contexts.

Most relevant publications in the field of Psychology of Education:

Dickhäuser, O., & Reinhard, M.-A. (2009). How Need for Cognition effects the formation of performance expectancies at school. Social Psychology of Education, 12, 385–395.

Reinhard, M.-A., & Dickhäuser, O. (in press). Affective states, task difficulty, and the formation and consequences of performance expectancies. Cognition and Emotion. doi:10.1080/02699931003802640.

Reinhard, M.-A., & Dickhäuser, O. (2009). Need for Cognition, task difficulty and the formation of performance expectancies. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 96, 1062–1076.

The study reported in this article was supported by a grant from the German Research Foundation to Oliver Dickhäuser (DI 929/2-3) and Marc-André Reinhard (RE 2218/3-3).

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Dickhäuser, O., Reinhard, MA. How students build their performance expectancies: The importance of need for cognition. Eur J Psychol Educ 25, 399–409 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10212-010-0027-4

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Keywords

  • Social cognition
  • Performance expectancies
  • Personality traits and processes
  • Need for cognition