Skip navigation
No more
Know more

What matters for a child’s future isn’t IQ. It’s this.

In recent years, what Nobel laureated economist James Heckman calls “non-cognitive skills” have become all the rage in education circles. The theory is that certain attributes of people that aren’t necessarily related to their raw intellect — things like perseverance, determination, resilience in the face of setbacks, etc. — are important determinants of success in life, as defined as happiness, income, or what have you. These might even be more important than pure IQ.

Heckman and the journalist Paul Tough are probably the best known exponents of this theory; both are featured in a This American Life episode about the idea, and Tough wrote a whole book about it. But the psychologist who’s done the most work on non-cognitive skills — and in particular one that she calls “grit” — is Angela Lee Duckworth, a University of Pennsylvania psychologist and one of this year’s MacArthur Genius Grant awardees. In the TED Talk above, she goes into her theory of “grit,” and why we should start caring at least as much about producing gritty kids as we do about producing smart ones.

Determine your grit level by taking this quiz; click “Know More” to read Tough’s profile of Duckworth.

Dylan Matthews | November 18, 2013 at 11:01 am
Know more: What if the secret to success is failure?
No more
Know more
A dizzying map of North America drawn in eight projections at once
Max Ehrenfreund
No more
Know more
Each dot on this map represents an act of terrorism since 1970
Alexander Becker
ADVERTISEMENT
No more
Know more
Alexander Becker
No more
Know more
When will the hottest day of the year be? It depends where you live
Max Ehrenfreund
No more
Know more
Fabulously Ukrainian propaganda showing where the rebels are
Max Ehrenfreund
No more
Know more
Per calorie, beef requires more than 100 times as much land as rice and potatoes
Max Ehrenfreund
No more
Know more
On health and military spending, the U.S. looks like the developing world
Max Ehrenfreund
No more
Know more
Alexander Becker
No more
Know more
The targets of hate crime: Jews, Muslims and gay men
Max Ehrenfreund
No more
Know more
Gaza is about as densely populated as Boston
Max Ehrenfreund
No more
Know more
Fracking or other industry might have caused these “swarms” of earthquakes
Max Ehrenfreund