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The Impact of Time Between Cognitive Tasks on Performance: Evidence from Advanced Placement Exams

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  • Ian Fillmore
  • Devin G. Pope

Abstract

In many education and work environments, economic agents must perform several mental tasks in a short period of time. As with physical fatigue, it is likely that cognitive fatigue can occur and affect performance if a series of mental tasks are scheduled close together. In this paper, we identify the impact of time between cognitive tasks on performance in a particular context: the taking of Advanced Placement (AP) exams by high-school students. We exploit the fact that AP exam dates change from year to year, so that students who take two subject exams in one year may have a different number of days between the exams than students who take the same two exams in a different year. We find strong evidence that a shorter amount of time between exams is associated with lower scores, particularly on the second exam. Our estimates suggest that students who take exams with 10 days of separation are 8% more likely to pass both exams than students who take the same two exams with only 1 day of separation.

Suggested Citation

  • Ian Fillmore & Devin G. Pope, 2012. "The Impact of Time Between Cognitive Tasks on Performance: Evidence from Advanced Placement Exams," NBER Working Papers 18436, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18436
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    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w18436.pdf
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    1. S. Dellavigna., 2011. "Psychology and Economics: Evidence from the Field," VOPROSY ECONOMIKI, N.P. Redaktsiya zhurnala "Voprosy Economiki", vol. 4.
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    Cited by:

    1. D. Mark Anderson & Mary Beth Walker, 2015. "Does Shortening the School Week Impact Student Performance? Evidence from the Four-Day School Week," Education Finance and Policy, MIT Press, vol. 10(3), pages 314-349, July.
    2. Patrick L. Warren, 2014. "Contracting officer workload, incomplete contracting, and contractual terms," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 45(2), pages 395-421, June.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • I20 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - General

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