A large body of work emphasizes the key role of affect for cognition (Oatley, Parrott, Smith, & Watts, 2011). However, only recently has particular attention been paid to such influence in learning contexts, where emotional interventions could support and enhance students’ performance (Hascher, 2010; Pekrun, 2009). While there is some experimental evidence showing mood effects in learning settings, more research is needed in light of the documented context-specificity of achievement emotions. Therefore, taking into account the control-value theory of achievement emotions (Pekrun, 2006), we explored whether the expressed intensity of ten achievement emotions experienced by 217 university students during their first year moderated the predictive power of cognitive abilities (logic aptitude, text comprehension) on performance (number of passed exams, mean grade of passed exams) measured three years later. Achievement emotions were assessed with reference to two settings—learning exam-relevant material and taking an exam. We conducted a path analysis to test whether initial cognitive abilities predicted later academic performance and found that they were positive predictors of the mean grade. Then we explored whether the previous model was moderated by achievement emotions, separately for emotions and settings. We found that the predictive power of cognitive abilities was, with some exceptions, reduced by lower positive emotions and higher negative emotions. Notwithstanding limitations such as the nature of self-report data, our findings encourage the development of intervention programs focused on emotional competence as a way to facilitate academic success and prevent students from dropping out of tertiary studies.
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