Examining the Existence of Cognitive Thresholds in Highly Quantitative College Courses

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Abstract

While the dominant finding indicates a monotonic relationship between cognitive ability and academic performance, some researchers have suggested the existence of cognitive thresholds for challenging coursework, such that a certain level of cognitive ability is required for reaching a satisfactory level of academic achievement. Given the significance of finding a threshold for understanding the relationship between cognitive ability and academic performance, and the limited studies on the topic, it is worth further investigating the possibility of cognitive thresholds. Using a multi-institutional dataset and the necessary condition analysis (NCA), we attempted to replicate previous findings of cognitive thresholds on the major GPA of mathematics and physics-majored students, as well as the course grade of organic chemistry, to examine whether high SAT math scores constitute a necessary condition for obtaining satisfactory grades in these courses. The results from the two studies do not indicate an absolute cognitive threshold point below which students are doomed to fail regardless of the amount of effort they devote into learning. However, we did find that the chance of students with a low level of quantitative ability to succeed in highly quantitative courses is very small, which qualifies for the virtually necessary condition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number37
JournalJournal of Intelligence
Volume12
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 by the authors.

Keywords

  • cognitive thresholds
  • college performance
  • quantitative ability

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