Grit Don't Mean Spit When It Comes to Success

That's right.  All the guts and grit and get-up-and-go you have may turn out not to matter so much in the long run, according to a new study.

Seems it's been over-hyped, say researchers.   There are many paths to success, but the significance of grit in helping you reach that goal has been greatly overstated, says an Iowa State University psychologist at

The study found no evidence that grit is a good predictor of success. While some educators are working to enhance grit in students, researchers say there’s no indication that it’s possible to boost levels. And even if it were 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. Researchers say their analysis of almost 100 independent studies, with nearly 67,000 people, shows that grit is really no different than conscientiousness. 

Good thing John Wayne is dead.  People of a certain age may remember him in the movie, "True Grit," the personification of grit and gumption in this film about a drunken, hard-nosed U.S. Marshal and a Texas Rangerwho help a stubborn teenager track down her father's murderer in Indian territory.

But getting back to the point,  “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,” says Marcus Credé, an assistant professor who studies techniques to improve academic performance.  “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 percent more likely to finish the training than cadets with average levels of grit. However, Credé says, the original data were misinterpreted. His analysis shows the increase in likelihood is really closer to 3 percent, rather than 99 percent.

“It’s a really basic error and the weird thing is that no one else has ever picked it up. People just read the work and said, ‘It’s this massive increase in people’s performance and how likely they are to succeed.’ But no one had ever looked at the numbers before,” Credé says.


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