What is (perception of) effort?

The following pre-print article (click title below for link) represents the latest in my conceptualisation of both effort, and its perception. It is a living document that I update as my understanding grows, and thus I am always interested to hear feedback from others. I have previously submitted this manuscript to peer-reviewed journals in both philosophy and psychology with generally positive comments. However, I have decided to keep it as the present living document to allow me to maintain its form and style to my liking, whilst being able to update its content.

What is (perception of) effort? Objective and subjective effort during attempted task performance


Despite its apparent intuitiveness and widespread interest across various fields, ‘effort’ is a concept that seems difficult to define. The purpose of this article is to consider and define ‘effort’ during attempted task performance. In doing so I argue for distinction between the actual effort (objective effort) required, and the perception of that effort (subjective effort), during intentionally attempted task performance. I adopt a set theoretical approach to defining the intensional concepts, and extensional phenomenal constructs, and employ the tradition of Theory-Theory to illustrate tentative causal theories for and relating the concepts. The definitions I propose are deliberately agnostic of the specific task demands being attempted (e.g. physical, cognitive, self-control, or a combination) and thus reflect ‘general’ definitions of effort and its perception. Throughout, I draw upon and synthesise literature from across a multitude of disciplines, combining empirical evidence with armchair philosophising, and offer what insights I have from my own experience both as someone experiencing ‘effort’, and as a third-person observer investigating it. This work is intended to, at the very least, make my own current pretheoretical conceptualisation and understanding of ‘effort’ transparent to other researchers, and aid interpretation of subsequent empirical work, theory building, and theory testing on the topic. Further, I hope it might be useful to researchers across various fields, unify paradigms and help with integration of learnings across disciplines, and further understanding of the role of ‘effort’ and its perception from a broad scientific perspective.