Three Reasons You aren’t Successful at Studying for the EPPP

Most, if not all, of us would agree that success in studying for the EPPP means getting a passing score. This outcome, however, is not instantly gratifying in that it requires dedicated hours of study. When it comes to studying, we experience what is called delayed gratification. This concept is the springboard for the three reasons I have found to be at the root of unsuccessful ventures in studying for the EPPP.

1. False Perception  

In a Ted Talk by psychologist Dan Gilbert called Why We Make Bad Decisions, Gilbert uses an equation to describe the value-changing effects of comparison and how that comparison can alter our decision-making. The equation is as follows: Expected Value = (Odds of Gain) x (Value of Gain). Spelled out, this equation says that our expected value is the product of what we perceive to be the odds of our gain and the value of our gain.

Expected value is altered when we have underestimated the odds of future gain (such as the gain that getting out of bed right away will bring us) and have overestimated the value of present pleasure (such as the pleasure that pushing the snooze button will bring us in the next ten minutes). The reason we overestimate the odds of future gain and underestimate the value of present pleasure is because space is to size (the farther away something is, the less clear it becomes) how time is to value (the farther away a goal is, the more difficult it is for us to accurately estimate the value of present decisions to help us reach that goal).

When it comes to studying for the EPPP, present decisions, such as studying, to reach a future goal that is beneficial, a passing score, can be sabotaged by a present decision nearer to us in time that will allow us to reach a less beneficial goal.  For example, your study habits can be sabotaged by the dopamine rush you get from playing a computer game, scrolling through social media, or partying.

In summation, the first reason your EPPP studying might not be successful is due to the false perception of how your present decisions will affect your overall goal.  To avoid false perception in your day to day studies, give yourself short-term goals that will lead you to your ultimate goal. Through TSM your study sessions are set out for you daily, making a short term goal of completing the session before you tangible and easy to accurately perceive.

2. Willpower Depletion

To achieve the gratification of a passing EPPP score takes discipline in studying. In this age of distractions it can be easy to give in to the instant pleasures of social media or partake in an outing with friends during your set-aside study time. Some may say it takes willpower to say no to those immediate rewards. Perhaps willpower is a factor in disciplined studying but there is more to successful studying than pushing yourself to resist temptation.

Two posts ago I mentioned the possibility that willpower can run out and how it has been thought of in the context of a muscle that can be fatigued if overused. If we think of willpower as a muscle that can become tired, we can know how to avoid overworking it. Let’s look at dopamine to begin. Dopamine is a value-neutral hormone that rewards what pleases us without distinguishing whether the action is beneficial or detrimental. The more we partake in actions that release dopamine, the more habitual those actions become. This is why it is easy to give in to the present pleasures of partying or gaming and takes willpower to concentrate on studying instead. To avoid fatigued willpower, exerting dopamine and experiencing present pleasure during times of study will save you energy and make focusing on studying much easier.

For example, incorporating something pleasing into your study sessions might make them more enjoyable and, therefore, give you more motivation to keep studying. This could look like ordering your favorite coffee drink only when you are studying or rewarding yourself with time spent with friends after studying hard. Dopamine will reward these behaviors and your brain can get to a point of associating the increased pleasantness with studying therefore saving willpower.

3. Motivation

Lastly, I will leave you with a simple reason you might not be succeeding at studying for the EPPP. Ask yourself who you are studying for. We are more likely to succeed when driven by our own desires. Evaluating your desires will help you find the root of your motivation. This is not to say that you shouldn’t allow outside motivation such as accountability but it is to remember the worth of the gratification you are delaying by studying for the EPPP.  Understanding the roles that false perception, willpower depletion, and motivation play in studying for the EPPP will allow you to assess your study habits and gear them towards success.


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