Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Psychology & Neuroscience

First Advisor

Akira Miyake

Second Advisor

Tiffany Ito

Third Advisor

Yuko Munakata

Fourth Advisor

Tor Wager


Throughout our daily lives, we encounter various tasks that are frustrating and require persistence to complete. However, this ability to persist varies among individuals with some persisting longer than others, and both cognitive and personality variables are likely to jointly influence this ability. Is this study, participants performed a laboratory based persistence task involving unsolvable puzzles. Contrary to prominent self-control theories, results indicate that pure ability (e.g., working memory capacity; WMC) alone is not related to persistence. The relationship between WMC and persistence depends on the explanatory style (how people typically interpret the cause of events) of individuals. For those with an optimistic explanatory style, high WMC is associated with more persistence, whereas, for those with a pessimistic explanatory style, high WMC is not associated with more persistence. In other words, to be among those who persist longer, it is necessary to have both a high WMC and an optimistic explanatory style. This research suggests that it is important to consider multiple factors when exploring the tendency to quit while performing frustrating and difficult tasks.