On the Prospect of Knowing: Providing Solutions Can Reduce Persistence

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Abstract

Our willingness to persist in problem solving is often held up as a critical component in being successful. Allied against this ability, however, are a number of situational factors that undermine our persistence. In the present investigation, the authors examine 1 such factor—knowing that the answers to a problem are easily accessible. Does having answers to a problem available reduce our willingness to persist in solving it ourselves? Across 4 experiments, participants (university students from a large Canadian University) solved multisolution anagrams and were either provided the answers after giving up (and knew they would receive the answers) or not. Results demonstrated that individuals persisted for less time in the former condition. In addition, participants did not seem to be aware of the effect that answers had on their decisions to quit. Implications for our understanding of the role that access to answers has on persistence across a number of domains (e.g., education, Internet) are discussed.

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