Conscientiousness makes effort less frustrating

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Effort is both rewarded by attainment and powerfully aversive – the “effort paradox”. Here, we test the idea that Conscientiousness (C) decouples effort from aversive affect, permitting effort to proceed to goal attainment rather than being derailed by frustration. Study 1 (N = 1202) induced a workload using cognitive ability items. A strong association of effort with frustration was found (β = 0.40). Moreover, more difficulty predicted significantly higher felt effort (β = 0.12) and, more strongly, frustration (β = 0.32). Study 2 (N = 501) tested effects of C. Importantly, C significantly reduced frustration, and a significant C × effort interaction on frustration emerged in the easier task (β = −0.15). Study 3 (N = 700) replicated the main effect of C in the difficult task. Study 4 (N = 400) replicated both the main effect and significant C × effort interaction for the easier task. Results support the idea that C decouples frustration from effort and is adaptive, permitting high-C subjects to engage in higher goal-directed effort with less negative affect, especially for reliably completed tasks. This mechanism may reduce procrastination and increase persistence, potentially accounting for higher attainment and avoidance of “easy” lures leading to pitfall-strewn life paths.
Original languageEnglish
Article number112690
JournalPersonality and Individual Differences
Early online date29 Apr 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 29 Apr 2024

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • cognitive ability
  • conscientiousness
  • incentives
  • motivation


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