Toward an understanding of when and why situational constraints influence performance
Horner, Margaret Tutt
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The current study sought to explain when and why situational constraints negatively influence performance on a complex task. In particular, perceived control and affective reactions (frustration and satisfaction) were examined as potential explanatory mechanisms, while ability and motivation were tested as moderators. The influence of situational constraints on task strategies was also examined and tested for possible nonlinearity. Finally the extent to which task strategy use moderates the situational constraint-task performance relationship was investigated. A laboratory study using 158 undergraduate psychology students was conducted. Three levels of situational constraints (low, moderate, high) were experimentally manipulated. Performance on a problem solving execution task, as well as experimenter observations of strategy use, were used to represent the constructs of interest in the study. Results indicated that situational constraints were directly related to task satisfaction and frustration and performance. In addition task strategy use was directly related to performance. However, there was no evidence for mediation or moderation effects. Limitations and future directions are discussed.