Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 198 (2020), 104883.

DOI: 10.1016/j.jecp.2020.104883


Copyright © 2020 Elsevier Inc. Used by permission.


Intrinsic motivation and executive functions (EFs) have been independently studied as predictors of academic achievement in elementary school. The goal of this investigation was to understand how students’ challenge preference (CP), an aspect of intrinsic motivation, is related to academic achievement while accounting for EFs as a confounding variable. Using data from a longitudinal study of 569 third-, fourth-, and fifth-graders (50% female), we tested students’ self-reported CP as a predictor of mathematics and English language arts (ELA) achievement in multilevel models that controlled for school fixed effects and student demographic characteristics. CP was positively associated with mathematics and ELA over and above the set of covariates and EFs. While also controlling for prior achievement, CP continued to explain a small amount of unique variance in mathematics, but not in ELA. These results underscore the importance of including measures of students’ intrinsic motivation, in addition to EFs, to obtain a comprehensive understanding of academic success.