Motivational Influences on Cognitive Performance in Children: Focus Over Fit Academic Article uri icon


  • Cognitive psychologists have begun to address how motivational factors influence adults' performance on cognitive tasks. However, little research has examined how different motivational factors interact with one another to affect behavior across the lifespan. The current study examined how children perform on a classification task when placed in a regulatory fit or mismatch. Nine-year-old children performed a classification task in which they either gained or lost points for each response. Additionally, children were given either a global promotion focus (trying to earn a gift card) or a prevention focus (trying to avoid losing a gift card). Previous work indicates that adults in this task tend to perform better when there is a match (or fit) between the overall incentive to earn or avoid losing the incentive and the task reward structure to maximize points gained or minimize points lost. Unlike adults, nine-year-olds perform better in the promotion condition than in the prevention condition regardless of task reward structure. Possible explanations for the differences between adults' and children's performance are discussed as well as possible applications for academic settings.

author list (cited authors)

  • Worthy, D. A., Brez, C. C., Markman, A. B., & Maddox, W. T.

citation count

  • 1

publication date

  • January 2011