Do I have enough time? The effects of perceived test difficulty and perceived time pressure on cognitive performance
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Previous research on time pressure has shown that time pressure has paradoxical effects on task performance. Findings from previous studies show that time pressure can either help or hurt performance. Thus, it was hypothesized that an inverted U-shape relationship between time pressure and cognitive performance might explain the inconsistent results. In the current study, we used a 2 (Practice set difficulty: easy vs. hard) x 2 (Perceived time pressure: low vs. high) between-subjects design to investigate the effects of perceived test difficulty and perceived time pressure on cognitive performance. Participants either received an easy or hard practice set of Remote Associate Task problems. After, participants were told that 10 mins was either a sufficient (i.e., low perceived time pressure) or insuffient (i.e., high perceived time pressure) amount of time to complete a 30-item test. Upon completion of the test, participants then answered a battery of questionnaires regarding their personality, behavior, and beliefs. Results showed that there was no effect of perceived test difficulty or perceived time pressure on creative task performance or time spent on items. Exploratory analyses using the self-report surveys showed that ADHD behaviors, impulsivity, procrastination, need for cognition, and regulatory focus interacts with perceived test difficulty and perceived time pressure. Findings from this study provides insight into the influence of individual differences on perceived test difficulty and perceived time pressure. Understanding how people with different personalities, behaviors, and beliefs perceive time will help elucidate the different contexts under which time pressure can impair or improve performance.