Effects of cognitive ability and social presence on performance of mathematical calculation and recognition memory tasks
Authors: Zhecheng Wang, Ruifeng Yu
Abstract: For individuals, cognitive ability is often an important reference for predicting education level, academic achievement, and work ability. In many cases, people usually work or study in a group situation with co-actors. For example, many students study together in a classroom, or workers work together in a workstation. People in a group interact and influence each other, which means they become each other’s social presence. Some studies found that the cognitive ability of group members affected the overall performance of the group. Therefore, it is also necessary to consider the individual cognitive ability factors in the research of social facilitation effects. We are curious about whether group members’ difference in cognitive abilities would moderate the effect of social presence on his task performance when they complete tasks in a group situation. In other words, we are interested in the effects of social presence on the intensity or direction of social facilitation exerting on people with different cognitive abilities when completing cognitive tasks.This paper investigated the effects of individual cognitive ability, social presence and task difficulty on the performance of mathematical calculations and recognition memory tasks. The mathematical calculation tasks and memory tasks are two kinds of typical cognitive tasks that people often need to deal with in work or study. Moreover, the extant studies verified that the social facilitation effect existed in those tasks. Hence, this study selected them as experimental tasks respectively. A three-factor mixed design experiment was conducted. The Cognitive Ability factor had two levels: low and high, which were distinguished by the score of the Cognitive Ability scale. The difficulty factor had two levels: easy and hard. The social presence factor had two levels: alone and group. In the alone condition, the participant did the task alone in a room. In the group condition, two participants conducted the experiment face-to-face in the room at the same time. There were 4 experimental conditions of two within-subject factors (2 difficulty × 2 social presence). Every participant needed to finish a trial of easy tasks and a trial of hard tasks in both alone and group conditions. The trials were randomly and balanced assigned in a counterbalanced design to the 8 trials across the experiment used. Thirty-six participants participated in this study. The response time and accuracy rate were used to assess the task performance. The results indicated that, although cognitive ability had a significant main effect on the performances, the interaction effect between cognitive ability and social presence on task performance was not significant. There existed a two-way interaction effect between social presence and task difficulty on response time of both tasks. The findings provide useful information for work organization and task allocation in a group work.
Keywords: cognitive ability, social presence, task difficulty, performance
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