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The Role of Noncognitive Skills in Explaining Cognitive Test Scores

Author

Listed:
  • Meijers, Huub

    (UNU-MERIT)

  • Borghans, Lex

    (ROA, University of Maastricht)

  • Weel, Bas ter

    (UNU-MERIT)

Abstract

This paper examines whether noncognitive skills - measured both by personality traits and economic preference parameters - influence cognitive tests performance. The basic idea is that noncognitive skills might affect the effort people put into a test to obtain good results. We experimentally varied the rewards for questions in a cognitive test to measure to what extent people are sensitive to financial incentives. To distinguish increased mental effort from extra time investments we also varied the questions' time constraints. Subjects with favorable personality traits such as high performance-motivation and an internal locus of control perform relatively well in the absence of rewards; consistent with a model in which trying as hard as you can is the best strategy. In contrast, favorable economic preference parameters (low discount rate, low risk aversion) are associated with increases in time investments when incentives are introduced, consistent with a rational economic model in which people only invest when there are monetary returns. The main conclusion is that individual behavior at cognitive tests depends on noncognitive skills.

Suggested Citation

  • Meijers, Huub & Borghans, Lex & Weel, Bas ter, 2006. "The Role of Noncognitive Skills in Explaining Cognitive Test Scores," MERIT Working Papers 2006-044, United Nations University - Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT).
  • Handle: RePEc:unm:unumer:2006044
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    File URL: https://www.merit.unu.edu/publications/wppdf/2006/wp2006-044.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Lex Borghans & Huub Meijers & Bas Ter Weel, 2008. "The Role Of Noncognitive Skills In Explaining Cognitive Test Scores," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 46(1), pages 2-12, January.
    2. Shane Frederick, 2005. "Cognitive Reflection and Decision Making," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 19(4), pages 25-42, Fall.
    3. Lex Borghans & Huub Meijers & Bas Ter Weel, 2008. "The Role Of Noncognitive Skills In Explaining Cognitive Test Scores," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 46(1), pages 2-12, January.
    4. Shane Frederick & George Loewenstein & Ted O'Donoghue, 2002. "Time Discounting and Time Preference: A Critical Review," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(2), pages 351-401, June.
    5. Yona Rubinstein & James J. Heckman, 2001. "The Importance of Noncognitive Skills: Lessons from the GED Testing Program," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(2), pages 145-149, May.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    cognitive test scores; noncognitive skills;

    JEL classification:

    • J20 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - General
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity

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