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

  • Ian Fillmore
  • Devin G. Pope
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    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.

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    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w18436.pdf
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    Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 18436.

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    Date of creation: Oct 2012
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    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18436
    Note: ED LS
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    1. Stefano DellaVigna, 2007. "Psychology and Economics: Evidence from the Field," NBER Working Papers 13420, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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