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The gratification which children derive from cognitive mastery on problem-solving tasks was examined as a function of task difficulty. Fifth and sixth graders were given a series of anagrams varying in difficulty. Greater pleasure, as reflected both in smiling and rated enjoyment, was manifest on the correct, compared to the incorrect, items. Among those correctly solved anagrams only, there was a positive linear relationship between smiling and difficulty level. Repetition of correctly solved anagrams produced a decline in smiling. Verbal data also supported the interpretation that the maximum gratification is derived from the active solution of challenging problems, whereas easily solved problems provide relatively little pleasure. The findings are discussed in terms of their implications for the concept of effectance motivation.
Child Development © 1974 Society for Research in Child Development