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.