Individual differences in cognitions and emotions play a critical role in difficult academic situations, such as the transition into college, a period infused with uncertainty. Perceived academic control (low vs. high) and emotions (course boredom, anxiety, and enjoyment) were examined to determine how they jointly predicted 620 first-year students’ achievement and attrition over an entire academic year. It was expected that students’ emotions would moderate the effects of high perceived control on achievement (final psychology grade, cumulative GPA) and attrition (overall course credits dropped). Regression results revealed several Perceived Control × Emotion interactions that supported this moderation hypothesis: negative emotions impeded the benefits of high control (i.e., boredom and anxiety predicted worse performance in high-control students); positive emotions enhanced the benefits of high control (i.e., enjoyment predicted better performance in high-control students). Conversely, achievement emotions did not predict performance among low-control students. Together, these findings indicate that for a high level of perceived control to enhance students’ academic achievement and inhibit attrition, “adaptive” levels of emotions (lower boredom, lower anxiety, or higher enjoyment) are required. Implications for maximizing academic success among both low- and high-control students are discussed.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Bailis D.S., Chipperfield J.G., Perry R.P. (2005). Optimistic social comparisons of older adults low in primary control: A prospective analysis of hospitalization and mortality. Health Psychology 24: 339–401
Barr, R. B., & Knowles, G. W. (1986).The 1985 school leaver and high school diploma program participant attitude study. (Research Rep.). San Diego, CA: San Diego City Schools, Planning, Research and Evaluation Division.
Barrineau P. (2005). Personality types among undergraduates who withdraw from liberal arts colleges. Journal of Psychological Type 65: 27–32
Bonanno G.A., Mayne T.J. (2001). The future of emotion research. In: Mayne T.J., Bonnano G.A. (eds) Emotions: Current issues and future directions. New York NY, Guilford Press, pp. 398–340
Chipperfield J.G., Greenslade L. (1999). Perceived control as a buffer in the use of health care services. Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, 54B: P146–P154
Chipperfield J.G., Perry R.P., Menec V.H. (1999). Primary- and secondary-control enhancing strategies: Implications for health in later life. Journal of Aging and Health 11: 517–539
Chipperfield J.G., Perry R.P., Weiner B. (2003). Discrete emotions in later life. Journals of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences 58B: P23–P34
Davis F. (1984). Understanding underachievers. American Education 20: 12–14
Feldman R.S. (2005). Improving the first year of college: Research and practice. Mahwah, NJ, Lawrence Erlbaum
Fredrickson B.L., Branigan C. (2001). Positive emotions. In: Mayne T.J., Bonnano G.A. (eds) Emotions: Current issues and future directions. New York, NY, Guilford Press, pp. 123–151
Fredrickson B.L., Losada M.F. (2005). Positive affect and the complex dynamics of human flourishing. American Psychologist 60: 678–686
Geraghty, M. (1996, July 19). More students quitting college before sophomore year, data show. The Chronicle of Higher Education, pp. A35–A36
Graham S., Weiner B. (1996). Theories and principles of motivation. In: Berliner D.C., Calfee R.C. (eds) Handbook of educational psychology. New York, Prentice Hall, pp. 63–84
Hall N.C., Hladkyj S., Perry R.P., Ruthig J.C. (2004). The role of attributional retraining and elaborative learning in college students’ academic development. Journal of Social Psychology 144: 591–612
Hall N.C., Perry R.P., Chipperfield J. G., Clifton R.A., Haynes T.L. (2006). Enhancing primary and secondary control in at-risk college students through writing-based attributional retraining. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology 25: 361–391
Hall N.C., Perry R.P., Ruthig J.C., Hladkyj S., Chipperfield J.G. (2006). Primary and secondary control in achievement settings: A longitudinal study of academic motivation, emotions, and performance. Journal of Applied Social Psychology 36: 1430–1470
Haynes T.L., Ruthig J.C., Perry R.P., Stupnisky R.H., Hall N.C. (2006). Reducing the risk of over-optimism: The longitudinal effects of attributional retraining on cognition and achievement. Research in Higher Education 47: 755–779
Hembree R. (1988). Correlates, causes, effects, and treatment of test anxiety. Review of Educational Research 58: 47–77
House J.D. (1992). The relationship between academic self-concept, achievement-related expectancies, and college attrition. Journal of College Student Development 33: 5–10
Hyers A.D., Joslin M.N. (1998). The first year seminar as a predictor of academic achievement and persistence. Journal of the Freshman Year Experience and Students in Transition 10: 7–30
Isen A.M. (2002). Missing in action in the AIM: Positive affect’s facilitation of cognitive flexibility, innovation, and problem solving. Psychological Inquiry 13: 57–65
Lao C.Y., Krashen S. (2000). The impact of popular literature study on literacy development in EFL: More evidence for the power of reading. System 28: 261–270
Lyubomirsky S., King L., Diener E. (2005).The benefits of frequent positive affect: Does happiness lead to success?. Psychological Bulletin 131: 803–855
Martinez, R. (1986). Minority youth dropouts: Personal, social, and institutional reasons for leaving school. (Research Rep.). Colorado Springs, CO: Center for Community Development & Design, Colorado University.
McClelland G.H., Judd C.M. (1993). Statistical difficulties of detecting interactions and moderator effects. Psychological Bulletin 114: 376–390
Menec V.H., Perry R.P., Struthers C.W., Schönwetter D.J., Hechter F.J., Eichholz B.L. (1994). Assisting at-risk college students with attributional retraining and effective teaching. Journal of Applied Social Psychology 24: 675–701
Metz G.W. (2004). Challenge and changes to Tint’os persistence theory: A historical review. Journal of College Student Retention Research Theory and Practice 6: 191–207
Pekrun R. (1988). Anxiety and motivation in achievement settings: Towards a systems-theoretical approach. International Journal of Educational Research 12: 307–323
Pekrun R. (1992). The impact of emotions on learning and achievement: Towards a theory of cognitive/motivational mediators. Applied Psychology 41: 359–376
Pekrun R. (1993). Facets of students’ academic motivation: A longitudinal expectancy-value approach. In: Maehr M., Pintrich P. (eds) Advances in Motivation and Achievement (Vol. 8). Greenwich, CT, JAI Press, pp. 139–189
Pekrun R. (2000). A social cognitive, control-value theory of achievement emotions. In: Heckhausen J. (ed) Motivational psychology of human development. Oxford UK, Elsevier Science, pp. 143–163
Pekrun R. (2006). The control-value theory of achievement emotions: Assumptions, corollaries, and implications for educational research and practice. Educational Psychology Review 18: 315–341
Pekrun R. (2007). Emotions in students’ scholastic development. In: Perry R., Smart J. (eds) The scholarship of teaching and learning in higher education: An evidence-based perspective. New York NY, Springer, pp. 553–610
Pekrun, R., Goetz, T., & Perry, R. P. (2005). Achievement Emotions Questionnaire (AEQ). User’s manual. Department of Psychology, University of Munich.
Pekrun R., Goetz T., Titz W., Perry R.P. (2002a). Academic emotions in students’ self-regulated learning and achievement: A program of qualitative and quantitative research. Educational Psychologist 37: 91–105
Pekrun R. Goetz T., Titz W., Perry R.P. (2002b). Positive emotions in education. In: Frydenberg E. (eds) Beyond coping: Meeting goals, visions, and challenges. Oxford UK, Elsevier, pp. 149–174
Perry R.P. (1991). Perceived control in college students: Implications for instruction in higher education. In: Smart J. (ed) Higher education: Handbook for theory and research (Vol. 7). New York, NY, Agathon Press, pp. 1–56
Perry R.P. (2003). Perceived (academic) control and causal thinking in achievement settings: Markers and mediators. Canadian Psychologist 44: 312–331
Perry R.P., Dickens W.J. (1984). Perceived control in the college classroom: The effect of response outcome contingency training and instructor expressiveness on students’ attributions and achievement. Journal of Educational Psychology 76: 966–981
Perry, R. P., Hall, N. C., Newall, N. E., Haynes, T., & Stupnisky, R. (May, 2003). Attributional retraining and elaboration: Differential treatment effects in college students. Presented at the Western Psychological Association annual conference, Vancouver, BC.
Perry R.P., Hall N.C., Ruthig J.C. (2005). Perceived (academic) control and scholastic attainment in higher education. In: Smart J. (ed) Higher education: Handbook of theory and research (Vol. 20). The Netherlands, Springer, pp. 363–436
Perry R.P., Hechter F.J., Menec V.H., Weinberg L. (1993). Enhancing achievement motivation and performance in college students: An attributional retraining perspective. Research in Higher Education 34: 687–720
Perry R.P., Hladkyj S., Pekrun R.H., Clifton R.A., Chipperfield J.G. (2005). Perceived academic control and failure in college students: A three-year study of scholastic attainment. Research in Higher Education 46: 535–569
Perry R.P., Hladkyj S., Pekrun R., Pelletier S. (2001). Academic control and action control in the achievement of college students: A longitudinal field study of self-regulation. Journal of Educational Psychology 93: 776–789
Perry R.P., Menec V.H., Struthers C.W. (1996). Student motivation from a teaching perspective. In: Menges R., Weimer M. (eds) Teaching on solid ground: Using scholarship to improve practice. San Francisco, CA, Jossey-Bass, pp. 75–100
Perry R.P., Penner K. (1990). Enhancing academic achievement in college students through attributional retraining and instruction. Journal of Educational Psychology 82: 262–271
Perry, R. P., & Struthers, C. W. (April, 1994). Attributional retraining in the college classroom: Some causes for optimism. Presented at the American Educational Research Association annual meeting, New Orleans, LA.
Peterson C., Maier S.F., Seligman M.E.P. (1993). Learned helplessness: A theory for the age of personal control. London, UK, Oxford University Press
Ross C.E., Broh B.A. (2000). The roles of self-esteem and the sense of perceived control in the academic achievement process. Sociology of Education 73: 270–284
Rothbaum F., Weisz J.R., Snyder S.S. (1982). Changing the world and changing the self: A two-process model of perceived control. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 42: 5–37
Ruthig, J. C., Hladkyj, S., Hall, N., Haynes, T., & Perry, R. (May, 2003). Attibutional retraining: Longitudinal effects on optimistic students’ perceived control and perceived stress. Presented at the Western Psychological Association annual convention, Vancouver, BC.
Ruthig J.C., Perry R.P., Hall N.C., Hladkyj S. (2004). Optimism and attributional retraining: Longitudinal effects on academic achievement, test anxiety, and voluntary course withdrawal. Journal of Applied Social Psychology 34(4): 709–730
Schönwetter D.J., Perry R.P., Struthers C.W. (1993). Students’ perceptions of control and success in the college classroom: Affects and achievement in different instruction conditions. Journal of Experimental Education 61: 227–246
Schutz P.A., DeCuir J. T. (2002). Inquiry on emotions and education. Educational Psychologist 37: 125–135
Schutz P.A., Pekrun R. (eds) (2007). Emotions in education. San Diego, CA, Academic Press
Skinner E.A. (1996). A guide to constructs of control. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 71: 549–570
Stipek D.J., Weisz J.R. (1981). Perceived control and academic achievement. Review of Educational Research 51: 101–138
Struthers C.W., Menec V.H., Schönwetter D.J., Perry R.P. (1996). The effects of attributions, action control, and creativity on college students’ motivation and performance: A field study. Learning and Individual Differences 8: 121–139
Struthers C.W., Perry R.P. (1996). Attributional style, attributional retraining, and innoculation against motivational deficits. Social Psychology of Education 1: 171–187
Thompson S.C., Nanni C., Levine A. (1994). Primary versus secondary and central versus consequence-related control in HIV-positive men. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 67: 540–547
Turner J.E., Husman J., Schallert D.L. (2002). The importance of students’ goals in their emotional experience of academic failure: Investigating the precursors and consequences of shame. Educational Psychologist 37: 79–90
Turner J.C., Thorpe P., Meyer D. (1998). Students’ reports of motivation and negative affect: A theoretical and empirical analysis. Journal of Educational Psychology 90: 758–771
Weiner B. (1985). An attributional theory of achievement motivation and emotion. Psychological Review 92: 548–573
Weiner B. (1995). Judgments of responsibility: A foundation for a theory of social conduct. New York, NY, Guilford Press
Weiner B. (2006). Social motivation, justice, and the moral emotions: An attributional approach. Mahwah, NJ, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates
Weiner B., Sierad J. (1975). Misattribution for failure and enhancement of achievement strivings. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 31: 415–421
Weisz J.R., McCabe M.A., Denning M.D. (1994). Primary and secondary control among children undergoing medical procedures: Adjustment as a function of coping style. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 62: 324–332
Yasutake D., Bryan, T. (1995). The influence of affect on the achievement and behavior of students with learning disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities 28: 329–334
Zeidner M. (1998). Test anxiety: The state of the art. New York, Plenum Press
Zeidner M. (2007). Test anxiety in educational contexts: Concepts, findings, and future directions. In: Schutz P.A., Pekrun R. (eds) Emotion in education. San Diego, CA, Academic Press, pp. 165–184
About this article
Cite this article
Ruthig, J.C., Perry, R.P., Hladkyj, S. et al. Perceived control and emotions: interactive effects on performance in achievement settings. Soc Psychol Educ 11, 161–180 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11218-007-9040-0