This paper examines whether noncognitive skills - measured both by
personality traits and economic preference parameters - influence
cognitive tests performance. The basic idea is that noncognitive skills
might affect the effort people put into a test to obtain good results.
We experimentally varied the rewards for questions in a cognitive test
to measure to what extent people are sensitive to financial incentives.
To distinguish increased mental effort from extra time investments we
also varied the questions' time constraints. Subjects with favorable
personality traits such as high performance-motivation and an internal
locus of control perform relatively well in the absence of rewards;
consistent with a model in which trying as hard as you can is the best
strategy. In contrast, favorable economic preference parameters (low
discount rate, low risk aversion) are associated with increases in time
investments when incentives are introduced, consistent with a rational
economic model in which people only invest when there are monetary
returns. The main conclusion is that individual behavior at cognitive
tests depends on noncognitive skills.
Keywords: cognitive test scores; noncognitive skills JEL Codes: J20; J24
UNU-MERIT Working Papers ISSN 1871-9872