Domain-general cognitive motivation: Evidence from economic decision-making – Final Registered Report

Jennifer L. Crawford, Sarah A. Eisenstein, Jonathan Peelle, Todd S. Braver

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Stable individual differences in cognitive motivation (i.e., the tendency to engage in and enjoy effortful cognitive activities) have been documented with self-report measures, yet convergent support for a trait-level construct is still lacking. In the present study, we used an innovative decision-making paradigm (COG-ED) to quantify the costs of cognitive effort, a metric of cognitive motivation, across two distinct cognitive domains: working memory (an N-back task) and speech comprehension (understanding spoken sentences in background noise). We hypothesized that cognitive motivation operates similarly within individuals, regardless of domain. Specifically, in 104 adults aged 18–40 years, we tested whether individual differences in effort costs are stable across domains, even after controlling for other potential sources of shared individual variation. Conversely, we evaluated whether the costs of cognitive effort across domains may be better explained in terms of other relevant cognitive and personality-related constructs, such as working memory capacity or reward sensitivity. We confirmed a reliable association among effort costs in both domains, even when these other sources of individual variation, as well as task load, are statistically controlled. Taken together, these results add support for trait-level variation in cognitive motivation impacting effort-based decision making across multiple domains.

Original languageEnglish
Article number23
JournalCognitive Research: Principles and Implications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Cognitive motivation
  • Listening effort
  • Speech comprehension
  • Working memory


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