You need a combination of several qualities to be able to achieve want you want, but researchers say the role of grit in achieving success in highly overrated.
Marcus Cred and his colleagues conducted a meta-analysis of all prior research on grit. Their results found no evidence that grit is a good predictor of success.
While some educators are working to enhance grit in students, Cred says there’s no indication that it’s possible to boost levels. And even if it was possible, it might not matter.
Grit is defined as perseverance and commitment to long-term goals. The research, often associated with University of Pennsylvania professor Angela Duckworth who first studied grit, is relatively new compared to the decades of work on performance indicators such as conscientiousness and intelligence.
Cred noted that the analysis of 88 independent studies representing nearly 67,000 people shows that grit is really no different than conscientiousness.
“If you look at the questions on the grit measure, they’re often almost identical to the questions that we ask when we measure conscientiousness. Many are almost word-for-word the same,” Cred said. “It’s really just a repackaging or relabeling of conscientiousness, which we’ve known about for over 50 years. It’s perhaps a sexier title, but it’s nothing new.”
The most well-known data source on grit is based on West Point cadets who complete basic training at the United States Military Academy. According to one paper describing these cadets, those with above-average levels of grit are 99% more likely to finish the training than cadets with average levels of grit. However, Cred says the original data were misinterpreted. His analysis shows the increase in likelihood is really closer to 3%, rather than 99%.
Cred says there may be some value in separating the two components of grit — perseverance and consistency of interests — as a way to measure success. Perseverance was a stronger predictor of high school grade point average than overall grit scores. This component may hold promise for future research and in applied settings for intervention.
The study will appear in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
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