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Brain and behavior correlates of a child’s approach to learning: Studying persistence, executive functioning, and motivation in elementary students


Research suggests executive function (EF) skills are critical for early academic success (Blair & Razza, 2007), yet less is known about their relation to other factors of student performance, such as persistence (LiGrinning, et al., 2010). Combining approaches from developmental cognitive neuroscience and educational psychology, the current study investigated the relation between student’s EF and factors of motivation on student performance. Students (N=84, Boys=33, Mage=6.94 years) were assessed on a battery of cognitive measures including measures of brain and behavioral correlates of EF. Student persistence during a challenging puzzle task, as well as intrinsic value and perceived competence for the task, were also measured. Findings indicate that persistence moderates the correlation between EF and persistent behavior. Thus, children who report high competency and have higher EF also show high persistent behavior. Additional findings revealed that that relation between EF and persistence across behavioral and neural levels differed by gender.

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