Thursday, January 24, 2013

Research Byte: Is cognitive ability a liability

Is Cognitive Ability a Liability? A Critique and Future Research Agenda on Skilled Performance

Beier, ME; Oswald, FL


Over a century of psychological research provides strong and consistent
support for the idea that cognitive ability correlates positively with
success in tasks that people face in employment, education, and everyday
life. Recent experimental research, however, has converged on a
different and provocative conclusion, namely that lower-ability people
can actually be more effective performers within special environments
characterized by features such as time pressure, social evaluation, and
unpredictable task change. If this conclusion is true, it has extensive
implications for practices such as personnel selection, training design,
and teaching methods. The current article reexamines and reinterprets
this research within the context of well-established resource theories
of cognitive processing and skill acquisition leading to a less
provocative conclusion that serves to reiterate the benefits of
cognitive ability for task performance. Following this reexamination, we
conclude by providing a research agenda for examining the determinants
of skilled performance in dynamic task environments, including the
following: (a) broadening the range of abilities and task difficulties
examined, (b) considering the role of nonability traits and goals in
skilled performance (e.g., personality, learning, and performance
goals), (c) investigating the processes (e.g., problem solving
strategies) that people use in complex environments, (d) developing
research designs and analytic strategies for examining adaptive
performance, and (e) investigating how best to train for adaptive

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