Date of Award
Cognitive tasks are most satisfying when they include the right balance between ease and difficulty (Labroo & Kim, 2008). This balance is viewed as optimal for high quality and progressive learning in school and societal contexts (Bjork & Bjork, 1992). This idea is the basis of the concept of desirable difficulties, which are defined as certain difficulties in the learning process that can greatly improve long-term retention of learned material (Bjork & Bjork, 1992). Having received a lot of attention in recent research, they allow for one to develop questions about how we, as humans, approach certain tasks and where the cognitive difficulty threshold lies for maximum personal satisfaction. This study examines participants' ability to accurately recognize word and picture stimuli presented in one of five angles of rotation to determine whether a universal "desirably difficult" mental threshold exists or whether there are different mental thresholds based on the particular stimuli that are presented. Results show that there seem to be different mental thresholds depending on the type of stimulus that is presented. In addition, the threshold of what is considered to be desirably difficult does not act on a linear continuum; rather, it appears to fluctuate based solely on the difficulty of the task in a cubic-fashion.
Walter, Zachary K., "The Outer Limits of Cognitive Processing: A Closer Look at What Is Desirable" (2015). Undergraduate Honors Thesis Collection. 253.