Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Psychology

First Committee Member

Gregg Schraw

Number of Pages



The study investigated the influence of self-efficacy beliefs, working memory capacity and problem complexity on problem solving performance, response time, and problem solving efficiency. Previous research investigated these factors from an absolute performance perspective, but not from the perspective of efficiency, defined as the ratio of problem-solving accuracy over time; Students completed an operational span working memory task, rated their self-efficacy for solving multiplication problems without the use of paper or calculation aids, and then solved computer-based cognitive multiplication problems, under conditions of varying complexity. Two competing hypotheses were proposed, which state that the efficiency of problem solving is either supported or inhibited as a function of individual beliefs and processing ability; A within-subjects interaction between problem complexity and self-efficacy was found for both problem solving accuracy and efficiency, however interaction effects between complexity and working memory were not observed. Main effects indicated that individuals with increased self-efficacy, regardless of working memory capacity, were more efficient problem solvers. Results suggested self-efficacy is a compensatory variable, which may influence problem solving efficiency. Conclusions indicated optimal problem solving efficiency is a function of self-efficacy beliefs, working memory and task complexity.


Capacity; Efficacy; Efficiency; Influence; Memory; Problem; Problem-solving; Solving; Self-efficacy; Working; Working Memory

Controlled Subject

Educational psychology; Mathematics--Study and teaching

File Format


File Size

2693.12 KB

Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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