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Performance Determinants in Undergraduate Economics Classes: The Effect of Cognitive Reflection

Alexei Orlov and John Roufagalas
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John Roufagalas: Radford University

International Review of Economic Education, 2012, vol. 11, issue 2, 28-45

Abstract: Economics classes claim to develop students' "analytical" abilities and "problem-solving" skills. Assessment of such claims is rather difficult, since it requires measurement of advanced thinking processes. Aptitude tests, such as the SAT, ACT (standardised tests for college admissions in the U.S.), and GRE (a standardised test for post-graduate admissions), purport to provide measures of such processes, but their questions refer to relatively simple thinking processes. Frederick (2005) has developed the "Cognitive Reflection Test" (CRT) to measure human ability to think deeper. The test contains questions whose apparent answers are incorrect and therefore further reflection is needed to arrive at the correct answers. Many economic problems fall into such a category. Our results suggest that CRT scores are higher and have a significant positive effect on exam performance in upper-level economics classes. In these classes, students with the highest CRT score outperform, on average, students with the lowest CRT score by more than half a letter grade, everything else the same.

Date: 2012
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