The Need for Cognition

Psychologists define the intrinsic motivation to engage in cognitive activities as the need for cognition, or NFC (Cacioppo & Petty, 1982; Cacioppo, Petty, Feinstein, & Jarvis, 1996; Cacioppo, Petty, & Kao, 1984). Students with a high NFC have greater intrinsic motivation to engage in learning activities and will therefore engage in activities such as completion of homework. Students with low NFC are less motivated to engage in learning activities; therefore, they will be more likely to take the path of least resistance, spending the minimal amount of effort on homework.

Some researchers have found a link between the need for cognition (NFC) and performance expectancy (Dickhauser & Reinhard, 2006, 2009, 2010). Students with a high NFC develop performance expectancies based on self-concept related to a specific task, while students with low NFC develop performance expectancies based on a more general self-concept. Therefore, there is an expected relationship between NFC and Performance Expectancy. Students with a low NFC tend to exaggerate their likely performance, which could negatively impact their study habits (they are more likely to think they have studied enough and quit studying before they are adequately prepared for a test). Additionally, students with low NFC are less likely to adapt their study habits in order to enhance their performance.

This research and my previous research on cognitive development raised the question in my mind “Can the Need for Cognition be improved?” If cognition is developed through experiences, can experiences also improve one’s intrinsic motivation to engage in cognitive activities? Do students have a low NFC because they have little experience or success with cognitive activities? I have been researching this topic and have not found any studies on this. I think it would be interesting study.

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