Cognitive and Non-Cognitive Variables Affecting Academic Performance in College Students

Brianna Newport


Recent research indicates an important role for non-cognitive variables in learning by college students. The present study was conducted to explore the relationships among growth mindset, self-efficacy, grit, Lumosity cognitive training, and academic performance, particularly in underprepared college students. Results could suggest how to improve academic performance of these students. Out of 117 possible participants, 83 (47 males and 36 females) who were enrolled in either a general psychology (GP), a freshman seminar (FS), or a remedial study skills (RSS) course completed two surveys. One survey was sent within the first 4 weeks of the semester and a second during the last 3 weeks of the semester to measure growth mindset, self-efficacy, and grit. Between those surveys, Group RSS participated in Lumosity, a collection of web-based games, and underwent intensive growth mindset, grit, and self-efficacy interventions. Group GP had basic exposure to growth mindset concepts. Group FS was the control group with no interventions. When comparing beginning and end survey results, we found significant improvement in self-efficacy across Groups FS (paired samples Wilcoxon test, p < 0.001) and RSS (p=0.048). Group FS significantly improved in grit (p < 0.001), and Group RSS showed almost significant improvement (p = 0.087). Group GP, which included more than 50% non-freshman, showed almost significant increases in grit (p = 0.052) but not in self-efficacy. In linear regression analyses, growth mindset and grit were significant predictors of self-efficacy. Lumosity cumulative performance, attention, and flexibility scores increased significantly (paired t-tests, p < 0.025) but were not predicted by our non-cognitive measures. In spite of improvements in non-cognitive variables, it is uncertain why the improvements occurred or whether they are predictive of cognitive performance. We hope to clarify these questions by analyses of the relationship between non-cognitive variables and grade point averages.


Self-efficacy; Grit; Growth Mindset; Cognitive Training; Lumosity

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