People generally prefer easier over more difficult mental tasks. Using two different adaptations of a demand selection task, we show that interest can influence this effect, such that participants choose options with a higher cognitive workload. Interest was also associated with lower feelings of fatigue. In two studies, participants (N = 63 and N = 158) repeatedly made a choice between completing a difficult or easy math problem.
Result show that liking math predicts choosing more difficult (vs. easy) math problems (even after controlling for perceived math skill). Two additional studies used the Academic Diligence Task (Galla et al., 2014), where high school students (N = 447 and N = 884) could toggle between a math task and playing a video game/watching videos. In these studies, we again find that math interest relates to greater proportion of time spent on the math problems. Three of these four studies also examined perceived fatigue, finding that interest relates to lower fatigue. An internal meta analysis of the four studies finds a small but robust effect of interest on both the willingness to exert greater effort and the experience of less fatigue (despite engaging in more effort).