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Using response times to measure ability on a cognitive task

Aleksandr Alekseev ()

Journal of the Economic Science Association, 2019, vol. 5, issue 1, No 6, 65-75

Abstract: Abstract I show how using response times as a proxy for effort can address a long-standing issue of how to separate the effect of cognitive ability on performance from the effect of motivation. My method is based on a dynamic stochastic model of optimal effort choice in which ability and motivation are the structural parameters. I show how to estimate these parameters from the data on outcomes and response times in a cognitive task. In a laboratory experiment, I find that performance on a digit-symbol test is a noisy and biased measure of cognitive ability. Ranking subjects by their performance leads to an incorrect ranking by their ability in a substantial number of cases. These results suggest that interpreting performance on a cognitive task as ability may be misleading.

Keywords: Cognitive ability; Test scores; Response times; Drift-diffusion model; Choice-process data (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: C24 C41 C91 D91 J24 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2019
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Working Paper: Using Response Times to Measure Ability on a Cognitive Task (2018) Downloads
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DOI: 10.1007/s40881-019-00064-2

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