Publication details

Faster ≠ Smarter : Children with Higher Levels of Ability Take Longer to Give Incorrect Answers, Especially When the Task Matches Their Ability



Year of publication 2023
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Journal of Intelligence
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Social Studies

Web article - open access
Keywords response time; distance–difficulty hypothesis; Thissen’s model; F > C phenomenon; game-based assessment; fluid intelligence; balance beam task; IRT
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Description The stereotype that children who are more able solve tasks quicker than their less capable peers exists both in and outside education. The F > C phenomenon and the distance–difficulty hypothesis offer alternative explanations of the time needed to complete a task; the former by the response correctness and the latter by the relative difference between the difficulty of the task and the ability of the examinee. To test these alternative explanations, we extracted IRT-based ability estimates and task difficulties from a sample of 514 children, 53% girls, M(age) = 10.3 years; who answered 29 Piagetian balance beam tasks. We used the answer correctness and task difficulty as predictors in multilevel regression models when controlling for children’s ability levels. Our results challenge the ‘faster equals smarter’ stereotype. We show that ability levels predict the time needed to solve a task when the task is solved incorrectly, though only with moderately and highly difficult items. Moreover, children with higher ability levels take longer to answer items incorrectly, and tasks equal to children’s ability levels take more time than very easy or difficult tasks. We conclude that the relationship between ability, task difficulty, and answer correctness is complex, and warn education professionals against basing their professional judgment on students’ quickness.
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