Agency attributions of mental effort during self-regulated learning

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Previous results suggest that the monitoring of one’s own performance during self-regulated learning is mediated by self-agency attributions and that these attributions can be influenced by poststudy effort-framing instructions. These results pose a challenge to the study of issues of self-agency in metacognition when the objects of self-regulation are mental operations rather than motor actions that have observable outcomes. When participants studied items in Experiment 1 under time pressure, they invested greater study effort in the easier items in the list. However, the effects of effort framing were the same as when learners typically invest more study effort in the more difficult items: Judgments of learning (JOLs) decreased with effort when instructions biased the attribution of effort to nonagentic sources but increased when they biased attribution to agentic sources. However, the effects of effort framing were constrained by parameters of the study task: Interitem differences in difficulty constrained the attribution of effort to agentic regulation (Experiment 2) whereas interitem differences in the incentive for recall constrained the attribution of effort to nonagentic sources (Experiment 3). The results suggest that the regulation and attribution of effort during self-regulated learning occur within a module that is dissociated from the learner’s superordinate agenda but is sensitive to parameters of the task. A model specifies the stage at which effort framing affects the effort–JOL relationship by biasing the attribution of effort to agentic or nonagentic sources. The potentialities that exist in metacognition for the investigation of issues of self-agency are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)370-383
Number of pages14
JournalMemory and Cognition
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements The work reported in this article was supported by the Max Wertheimer Minerva Center for Cognitive Processes and Human Performance at the University of Haifa. I am grateful to Miriam Gil for her help in the analyses. Tamar Jermans, Mor Peled, and Shai Raz helped in the collection of the data. I also thank Etti Levran (Merkine) for her help in copyediting.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017, Psychonomic Society, Inc.


  • Agency attribution
  • Judgments of learning
  • Metacognition
  • Self-regulated learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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