Marcus Credé

Marcus Credé

An Iowa State University professor says recent research “overstates” the importance of having the personal attribute of grit.

“Grit does not really predict success or performance in sort of academic or life domains very well,” says Marcus Credé, a psychology professor at ISU.

It’s been about nine years since research began to suggest grit was a novel and unique predictor of success, so Credé, an ISU grad student and a University of Alabama professor began to dig deeper.

“Once we started realizing what we were finding, we realized we were onto something very, very interesting,” he says.

Credé says grit appears to just be the “re-labeling” of a personality trait psychologists have been studying for 50 years.

“And that’s conscientiousness,” he says. “They look very similar in terms of how they’re defined. The questions we ask are identical and they’re related almost perfectly to one another, so if you score highly on a measure of grit, you’re almost certainly going to score very highly on a measure of conscientiousness.”

A University of Pennsylvania psychologist has just released a book that concludes grit is more important than talent or intelligence in determining success. Angela Duckworth defines grit as a combination of passion and persistence for long-term, meaningful goals. Credé — the Iowa State University psychologist — says there are a number of personal attributes that contribute to success in life and “grit may be a small piece in that,” but it’s not the biggest piece of the puzzle.

“We’re not trying to say that grit doesn’t make a contribution. I think it is helpful for children and adults to not give up as soon as they encounter a challenge, but the surprising thing to us was that it really doesn’t predict these outcomes as well as most people have claimed,” he says.

“And so, yes, it makes a contribution and, yes, it can be important in certain settings, but the evidence right now certainly doesn’t support the sort of dramatic claims that have been made about it.”

Intelligence is one of the most important predictors of success, according to Credé. He says the study habits of college students and their regular attendance in class play a much bigger role in academic success than does their grit.

Credé’s research about grit will be published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. The research suggests data from a 2007 study of West Point cadets “misinterpreted” the significance of grit.