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Preprints, Working Papers, ... Year : 2023

Turning worries into cognitive performance: Results from an online experiment during Covid

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Abstract

Worrisome topics, such as climate change, economic crises, or the Covid-19 pandemic, are increasingly present and pervasive due to digital media and social networks. Do such worries affect cognitive performance? The effect of a distressing topic might be very different depending on whether people have the scope and means to cope with the consequences. It can also differ by how performance is rewarded, for instance, if is there a goal that people can focus on. In an online experiment during the Covid-19 pandemic, we test how the cognitive performance of university students responds to topics discussing (i) current mental health issues related to social restrictions or (ii) future labor market uncertainties linked to the economic contraction. Moreover, we study how the response is affected by a performance goal by conditioning payout on reaching a minimum level. We find that the labor market topic increases cognitive performance when performance is motivated by a goal. Conversely, there is no such effect after the mental health topic. We even find a weak negative effect among those mentally vulnerable when payout is not based on reaching a goal. The positive effect is driven by students with larger financial and social resources, pointing at an inequality-widening mechanism.
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Dates and versions

hal-03953178 , version 1 (23-01-2023)

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  • HAL Id : hal-03953178 , version 1

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Timothée Demont, Daniela Horta Sáenz, Eva Raiber. Turning worries into cognitive performance: Results from an online experiment during Covid. 2023. ⟨hal-03953178⟩
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