Advantages of difficult tasks

Joan A.W. Linsenmeier, Philip Brickman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


If people work on a hard task before proceeding to one of intermediate difficulty, success will be relevant (predictive of future success) while failure will be irrelevant (not predictive of future failure). However, if they work first on an easy task, success will be irrelevant (not predictive of future success) while failure will be relevant (predictive of future failure). Previous research thus suggests that experience with hard tasks should always lead to more favorable evaluations of one's performance and better future performance than experience with easy tasks. The present study tested these predictions by manipulating initial expectancy (high or low), perceived difficulty of a set of practice problems (practice problems easier, harder, or equal in difficulty to those on a subsequent test), and practice problem feedback (success or failure). As predicted, experience with hard practice problems was most beneficial, regardless of the level of the feedback which students received. This was more true for males than females and for students with high ability than students with low ability.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)96-112
JournalJournal of Personality
StatePublished - 1978


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