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The Development of the Concepts of Effort and Ability, Perception of Academic Attainment, and the Understanding That Difficult Tasks Require More Ability

John G. Nicholls
Child Development
Vol. 49, No. 3 (Sep., 1978), pp. 800-814
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Society for Research in Child Development
DOI: 10.2307/1128250
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1128250
Page Count: 15
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The Development of the Concepts of Effort and Ability, Perception of Academic Attainment, and the Understanding That Difficult Tasks Require More Ability
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Abstract

Selected cognitive developments presumed to mediate the development of achievement motivation are described. 4 levels of reasoning or causal schemes involving the concepts of effort and ability were isolated and age trends from 5 to 13 years presented. The developments of capacity to infer ability required by tasks of different difficulty levels and the belief that more difficult tasks have greater incentive value of success were described. These achievements occurred at about the same time as the development of the second level of reasoning about effort and ability. It is suggested that these findings help account for certain developmental changes in achievement behavior. Perception of own academic attainment was less closely related to attainment in young children than older children. The age changes in perception of own attainment and causal schemes are held to be likely to contribute to age increases in the stability of individual differences in achievement behavior and academic attainment. The educational implications of the study are noted.

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