Not So True Grit [...]

Grit believers believe that a combination of perseverance and consistency work together as “grit” a teachable orientation towards the world that can predict success. But consistency is turning out to not be predictive, and perseverance looks suspiciously like “conscientiousness” from the Big Five Traits in psychology, and conscientiousness is not malleable (that’s why it is in the Big Five).

Credé and colleagues analyzed 88 experiments on grit reported in 73 papers, using data from 66,808 individuals. The results of their meta-analysis raise a few important questions about grit.

The tests that assessed grit break down into two sub-concepts: perseverance (the tendency to continue working hard in the face of setbacks) and consistency (directing that hard work toward a single goal over a long period of time). Credé and colleagues note that it’s not actually clear whether these two traits operate in tandem—whether they’re components of an overall trait.

In fact, the meta-analysis suggests that while perseverance seems to play a reasonably substantial role in predicting measures of success (like GPAs), consistency doesn’t seem to be nearly as important. Perseverance on its own actually turned out to be a better predictor than grit, they write.

A bigger problem is the degree to which grit is related to success. In her 2013 TED talk, Duckworth says that “One characteristic emerged as a significant predictor of success. And it wasn’t social intelligence. It wasn’t good looks, physical health, and it wasn’t IQ. It was grit.” This flies in the face of a large body of evidence that finds a very strong role for intelligence in certain forms of success, explaining about half of people’s differences in “performance in academic and work settings,” the authors write.

The meta-analysis found that grit does correlate, modestly, with academic performance and drop-out rates. The difference is small, but, as the authors point out, even small differences can have a big impact. For example, a small change to college drop-out rates—as little as a single percentage point—could change the lives of thousands of students. Duckworth told NPR that she doesn’t disagree with this and that the impact of grit is in the “small-to-medium” range. Perhaps the TED talk was just performance hyperbole. (Source)

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