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PLCF乡村少儿阅读推广志愿者培训材料-英文版
【第二部分 影响学习兴趣的因素】

Developmental Shifts in Attributions about the Causes of Performance

Different people explain their successes and failures in different ways. When some people experience success or failure, they explain the outcome as due to personal effort. That is, a success is attributed to trying hard, while a failure is explained as reflecting lack of effort. Alternatively, successes and failures can be explained in terms of abilities: Such people might reason that “I succeeded because I am naturally smart, being born with a high IQ,” or “I cannot read well because I was born with dyslexia.” Sometimes people explain successes or failures in terms of task characteristics. For example, a student who did well on a test might believe it was because the test was easy, and a student who did poorly might blame the failure on the test being too difficult. Finally, some believe that what happens to them is determined by luck, with successes due to good luck and failures due to bad luck.

Of all these explanations—effort, ability, task difficulty, and luck—the only one that is under personal control is effort. Thus, if you believe that you succeeded on a task because of high effort, there is reason to exert effort in the future. If you think that your failure reflects insufficient effort, the route to future success is to do more and try harder, and effort attributions are consistently associated with high effort in the future (Weiner, 1979). In contrast, there is nothing a person can do about inherited abilities, the difficulty of tasks, or luck; thus, individuals who believe their academic outcomes depend on ability, task difficulty, or luck have little or no motivation to try hard in the future.

One of the reasons that children’s motivations decline is that as children mature during the grade-school years, the ways that they explain their performance outcomes change. Kindergarten and grade-1 students do not differentiate between effort and ability. Thus, young children typically attribute their successes to effort. Moreover, whenever they exhibit effort, they believe their effort reflects high ability. Thus, if they fail but expended high effort, they leave the task still believing they have high ability because they exerted effort! In short, 6- and 7-year-olds typically believe that they can succeed by trying hard (Nicholls, 1978, 1990).

With increasing age during the elementary years, children differentiate effort and ability. Thus, by the end of the elementary years, children understand that if two people expend the same amount of effort, the one who is more successful probably has higher ability. Moreover, by the end of the grade-school years, students are explaining successes and failures more in terms of ability than effort. Successes are considered to be indications of high ability and failures to be indications of low ability.

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