Journal of East China Normal University(Educational Sciences) ›› 2022, Vol. 40 ›› Issue (8): 83-95.doi: 10.16382/j.cnki.1000-5560.2022.08.008

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Where there is a Will, there is a Way: Heterogeneous Effects of Students’ Willpower on Cognitive Abilities

Lei Zheng1, Yu Sun2   

  1. 1. Faculty of Education/ Capital Institute for Economics of Education, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China
    2. College of Education, Pennsylvania State University, State College 16802, U. S
  • Online:2022-08-01 Published:2022-07-26


According to the measurement framework of social and emotional skills proposed by Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, willpower is an essential task performance skill. Willpower has comprehensive and lasting effects on individual’s development. Based on the China Education Panel Survey data, using OLS and GPSM model, this study finds that students’ willpower has significant positive effects on cognitive abilities. Quantile regression and interacting model further show the positive effects of willpower on cognition are heterogeneous at both individual and group levels. For students with lower cognitive abilities, or students in a class with lower average family socioeconomic status or academic abilities, improving willpower can develop cognitive abilities better. These findings provide schools with empirical evidence about strengthening cultivation of willpower and other task performance skills. They promote the value of willpower from the perspective of educational equity and have enlightening significance for current student evaluation reform.

Key words: willpower, social and emotional skills, cognitive abilities, heterogeneity, educational equity