Social inequality generally stems from two factors: circumstances and effort. For example, children from poorer family backgrounds have access to fewer qualified teachers and they live in households with limited resources. Since these circumstances are beyond the child’s control, they are considered to be unfair. On the other hand, it is believed that children are in control of how hard they try at school. Thus, any resulting differences in school grades and achievement are usually considered to be fair. However, what if effort also depends on the child’s socioeconomic background?

The aim of the EFFORT project is to measure cognitive effort in children and understand how it relates to their socioeconomic background. Do children from less fortunate families try harder than more privileged children, or vice versa? And what is the role of incentives? To investigate these questions, the project conducted a range of experiments incorporating methodologies from across the social and physiological sciences. The project is now in the phase of disseminating the results through academic publications, conferences, and broader public engagement.

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This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (Grant agreement No. 758600).