The harder the task, the more inconsistent the performance: A PPT analysis on task difficulty

Stephen Rice, Kasha Geels, Holly Hackett, David Trafimow, Jason McCarley, Jeremy Schwark, Gayle Hunt

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    7 Citations (Scopus)


    Previous research has demonstrated that as task difficulty increases, task performance subsequently decreases. These decrements in task performance as difficulty increases have been attributed to the processes individuals use to complete tasks. Over a series of three experiments, Potential Performance Theory (PPT; Trafimow & Rice, 2008; 2009), was used to test the hypothesis that decreases in task performance are, in part, due to inconsistency rather than only systematic factors. Task difficulty was manipulated in three visual search tasks by increasing set size (Experiment 1), decreasing contrast (Experiment2), and increasing background distracters (Experiment 3). Findings over the three studies indicated that decreases in observed task performance as task difficulty increases are primarily due to a decrease of consistency rather than systematic factors. The theoretical implications of these findings are discussed.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-18
    Number of pages18
    JournalJournal of General Psychology
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2012


    • difficulty
    • performance
    • potential
    • theory


    Dive into the research topics of 'The harder the task, the more inconsistent the performance: A PPT analysis on task difficulty'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this