The concept of “grit” has risen to prominence recently on a wave of publicity for Angela Duckworth’s book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. The idea of grit is that success is about more than just natural talent—finding something you’re passionate about and persevering in it is more important than how talented you are to start out with. This can help to explain why people who are highly talented aren’t always successful.
That grit is as important as talent is an inspirational message—in part. One common criticism is that this message leads to a painful amount of self blame in, and prejudice against, people who fail at something. But the concept has snowballed into a simplistic, self-help wrecking ball, and even Duckworth is concerned about how far the idea is being taken.
But is the concept valid to start with? There’s a study due to be published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, and an early version has been made available by lead author Marcus Credé. The authors take a close look at the results of multiple studies on grit, pointing out some important problems with the idea. Apparently it doesn’t make as big a difference in success as the hype claims, and it doesn’t seem to be all that different from a concept we’ve known about for a long time: conscientiousness.