The Effects of Self-Awareness and Self-Reflective Writing on Online Task Performance

The Effects of Self-Awareness and Self-Reflective Writing on Online Task Performance

Gamze Yilmaz (University of Massachusetts Boston, USA) and Leah LeFebvre (University of Wyoming, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-0420-8.ch066


This study examined self-awareness and self-reflective writing effects on performance in an online task environment. Participants (N = 98) were randomly assigned to one of four conditions: self-awareness (private vs. public) and self-reflection (reflection vs. no-reflection). They were instructed to complete two successive online survival tasks that required analytical thinking and problem-solving skills. Findings demonstrated that participants in the private self-awareness condition performed better after writing a self-reflection than the no self-reflection condition. However, participants in the public self-awareness condition performed worse in the second task upon completion of their self-reflection compared with those that did not write a self-reflection. Additionally, a post-hoc linguistic analysis of the self-reflections illustrated that high-performers discussed their task completion using more cognitively complex language compared to low-performers.
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Online task completion is an inseparable aspect of today’s educational and professional environment. An increasing number of educational institutions are offering distance-learning programs that require self-regulated activities (Gooley & Lockwood, 2012). Similarly, several organizations employ crowdsourcing practices for efficient and affordable online task assignments (Poetz & Schreier, 2012). Despite the extensive research on cognitive and behavioral processes in collaborative environments (Buder, 2011; Kwon, Hong, & Laffey, 2013; Phielix, Prins, & Kirschner, 2010), scholars still know little about how these processes influence online task completion at the individual level.

Online task completion takes place primarily in solitude, and requires self-regulated behaviors, thereby when one’s self-awareness becomes salient; it is likely to affect the cognitive processes and subsequent performance. The self-awareness perspective, in the field of psychology, implies that individuals’ attention can be directed either internally or externally (Duval & Wicklund, 1972). When individuals direct their attention inwardly toward themselves, their focus is private. In contrast, when individuals direct their attention outwardly, their focus is public. Therefore, self-awareness can place attention on internal (private) and/or external (public) levels depending on where the self-awareness is focused.

Extensive research has been devoted to understanding the effects of self-awareness on perceptual and behavioral processes in computer-mediated communication (CMC). For instance, several studies looked at self-awareness in the context of online intimacy, politeness, attraction (Yao & Flanagin, 2006), self-disclosure (Joinson, 2001), self-esteem (Gonzales & Hancock, 2010), and language use (Blackburn, LeFebvre, & Brody, 2014). However, few empirical studies have examined the influence of self-awareness on cognitive processes in the context of online task completion. Many studies in conventional task and learning environments have documented that metacognitive processes, such as writing a self-reflection enhances performance (Barron & Erev, 2003; Hoffman & Spatariu, 2008). For instance, one study reported that information processing via reflection leads to better comprehension and integration of information in the memory (Smith & DeCoster, 2000). Another study found that individuals performed significantly better on subsequent tasks when they reflected on what they learned from the task they completed (Di Stefano, Gino, Pisano, & Staats, 2014).

Building on previous theoretical and empirical studies’ findings at the intersection of self-awareness and self-reflective writing, this study aims to reveal cognitive and behavioral processes underlying individual performance in an online task environment. Using the theoretical assumptions of objective self-awareness theory (Duval & Wicklund, 1972) and dual-process models of information processing (Chaiken & Trope, 1999), this study examined the effects of self-awareness and self-reflective writing on performance improvement. Also, using a post-hoc analysis, this study explored the linguistic differences in self-reflective writing between high and low performers.

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