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Why are some actions evaluated as effortful? In the present set of experiments we address this question by examining individuals’ perception of effort when faced with a trade-off between two putative cognitive costs: how much time a task takes vs. how error-prone it is. Specifically, we were interested in whether individuals anticipate engaging in a small amount of hard work (i.e., low time requirement, but high error-likelihood) vs. a large amount of easy work (i.e., high time requirement, but low error-likelihood) as being more effortful. In between-subject designs, Experiments 1 through 3 demonstrated that individuals anticipate options that are high in perceived error-likelihood (yet less time consuming) as more effortful than options that are perceived to be more time consuming (yet low in error-likelihood). Further, when asked to evaluate which of the two tasks was (a) more effortful, (b) more error-prone, and (c) more time consuming, effort-based and error-based choices closely tracked one another, but this was not the case for time-based choices. Utilizing a within-subject design, Experiment 4 demonstrated overall similar pattern of judgments as Experiments 1 through 3. However, both judgments of error-likelihood and time demand similarly predicted effort judgments. Results are discussed within the context of extant accounts of cognitive control, with considerations of how error-likelihood and time demands may independently and conjunctively factor into judgments of cognitive effort.
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- Anticipating cognitive effort: roles of perceived error-likelihood and time demands
Timothy L. Dunn
Evan F. Risko
- Springer Berlin Heidelberg