“Grit” Rivals IQ and EQ to Achieve Goals

Emotional intelligence has been demonstrated to be a better predictor of achievement and performance than measure of intelligence. 

Angela Duckworth

Angela Duckworth

One important component of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is perseverance, the consistent, sustained and focused application of talent and effort over time, University of Pennsylvania’s Angela Duckworth.  

Christopher Peterson

Christopher Peterson

She refers to this perseverance and passion for long-term goals as “grit” in her research with West Point cadets and Scripps National Spelling Bee contestants, in collaboration with University of Michigan’ Christopher Peterson and Michael Matthews and Dennis Kelly of United States Military Academy, West Point.

Grit was not related to IQ but was highly correlated with “Conscientiousness,” a personality trait described in the Five Factor Model of Personality.
It was also a better predictor of “success” as measured by retention at West Point, and advancement in the National Spelling Bee.

Michael Matthews

Michael Matthews

In addition, “grittier” participants:

  • Achieved higher levels of education
  • Had fewer job switches and career changes
  • Earned higher school grades than their peers, despite having lower standardized test scores measuring intelligence and achievement
  • Devoted more hours to deliberate practice (defined as individual word study and memorization for spelling bee contestants).
Teri Kirby

Teri Kirby

K. Anders Ericcson

K. Anders Ericcson

The most effective deliberate practice was rated as the least pleasurable, and “grittier” individuals did more of this effort in Duckworth’s expanded study with Teri Kirby, Eli Tsukayama, Heather Berstein,  then of Penn with K. Anders Ericsson of Florida State University.

Heather Berstein

Heather Berstein

Practice activities rated as more pleasurable and less effortful, like reading for pleasure, being quizzed by their parents, contributed less to spelling performance.

Paul Tough

Paul Tough

Parents and educators found responded enthusiastically to Paul Tough’s popularized summary of “grit” research in his book advising parents and teachers how to help young people develop grit, curiosity, conscientiousness, and optimism.
He “gritty” attributes highly correlated with successful academic and career performance.

Duckworth expanded the investigation of grit to include “explanatory style”, seen in individuals’ propensity to explain events from optimistic or pessimistic perspectives.
Explanatory style is evaluated according to whether the individual considers event causes as:

  • Personal (Internal vs. External cause or influence)
  • Permanent (Stable vs. Unstable)
  • Pervasive (Global vs. Local/Specific)

Optimistic explanatory style is characterized by external, unstable, local / specific explanations, whereas pessimistic styles include internal, stable, global attributions.

Duckwork and team found that novice teachers with more optimistic explanatory styles rated themselves higher in both grit and life satisfaction, and these high ratings were associated with better work effectiveness, as evaluated at the end of the school year.

Eli Tsukayama

Eli Tsukayama

Katherine Von Culin

Katherine Von Culin

Her students, Katherine Von Culin and Eli Tsukayama “unpacked” grit and found different difference in motivation and beliefs for grit’s two components:  perseverance vs passion.
Among more than 300 volunteers, they found that perseverance and passion had different meaning, pleasure, and engagement orientations to happiness and implicit beliefs about willpower.

Carol Dweck

Carol Dweck

The research team is evaluating the relationship between “grit” and “growth mindset,” introduced by Stanford’s Carol Dweck to signify viewing failures and setbacks as opportunities to learn and improve, rather than a permanent lack of ability.



Dweck, with Lisa Blackwell, then of Columbia and University of Western Ontario’s Kali Trzesniewski demonstrated the impact of growth mindset and positive explanatory style on school motivation and achievement.

In addition, Duckworth and team are considering ability to delay gratification as a component of grit, since it has been associated with greater self-control and life accomplishment.

More grit may not always lead to greater accomplishment.
Duckworth and team speculate that grittier individuals may be:

  • More vulnerable to the “sunk-cost fallacy
  • Less open to information that contradicts their present beliefs
  • Handicapped by judgment and decision-making biases
  • Likely to new opportunities because they are tenaciously focused on the original goal.
Emilia Lahti

Emilia Lahti

Duckworth‘s colleague at Penn, Emilia Lahti is leading research on grit’s Finnish cousin, “Sisu,” implying perseverance, bravery and stamina, and should report her findings by the end of 2013.

Assess your “grittiness” with the research team’s survey.

-*How accurately does your score reflect your view of your grittiness, perseverance?

-*How do you develop grit in yourself and others?


Twitter:    @kathrynwelds
Blog: – Kathryn Welds | Curated Research and Commentary 
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©Kathryn Welds


11 thoughts on ““Grit” Rivals IQ and EQ to Achieve Goals

  1. emiliaelisabethblog

    Thank you for the kind shout-out to sisu, dear Kathryn. I presented on sisu for the first time last week at the 3rd World Congress on Positive Psychology in LA. Truly excited about the future applications of this psychological power potential!

    Hope you are doing well and flourishing!

    1. kathrynwelds Post author

      Very pleased to hear that you participated in the THird World Congress on Positive Psychology. I hope to read more about feedback from your audience and your reactions to other presentations in your upcoming blog posts! I’m always glad to share your work, and I hope to hear more about your findings soon.

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