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Theories of Willpower Affect Sustained Learning

Abstract 

Building cognitive abilities often requires sustained engagement with effortful tasks. We demonstrate that beliefs about 
willpower–whether willpower is viewed as a limited or non-limited resource–impact sustained learning on a strenuous 
mental task. As predicted, beliefs about willpower did not affect accuracy or improvement during the initial phases of 
learning; however, participants who were led to view willpower as non-limited showed greater sustained learning over the 
full duration of the task. These findings highlight the interactive nature of motivational and cognitive processes: 
motivational factors can substantially affect people’s ability to recruit their cognitive resources to sustain learning over time. 
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Dr. Kali Trzesniewski,
Jan 29, 2013, 12:40 AM
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