Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Personality traits and academic achievement

One practical use of research on IQ and personality is deciding how much to invest in a child's education. If it is clear he is going to be an average student, public school might be all he needs. If an ordinary school is not going to maximize his potential, spending a lot of money for a better one makes sense. I never attended anything but public schools and was rarely challenged. (Let's not even get into the fact that my mind was conditioned into a naturalistic view of the world from the earliest grades. That's a subject for another post.)

We all know that IQ is highly predictive of academic success, but HBD-ers should not fall into the trap of believing it is everything. Personality traits matter as well.

This new study published in Personality and Individual Differences reports that conscientiousness, agreeableness, openness, and grit (or perserverance) all predict academic achievement. The reasons seems obvious enough except for agreeableness. I suspect that disagreeable students are punished academically for being less cooperative. 

UPDATE: I forgot to list negative emotionality. It lowers academic achievement. Being controlled by anger, depression, and anxiety, I'm sure, impairs function in many areas.


  1. Sorry to be boring but... range restriction. These studies comparing college students, often at a single college, are controlling away most of the variation seen in the population at large.

    Past studies show robustly that conscientiousness (and similar traits like 'grit') predict academic attainment, but probably not agreeableness. Openness is confounded by its positive correlation with IQ.

    But another problem with these studies is that they are retrospective, and academic selection has changed a lot over recent decades.

    There is a massive amount of data over the past century demonstrating the predicitive validity of IQ measured in childhood, but recent studies seem to find this harder to confirm.

    It seems that old style teaching with relatively few formal exams measured IQ much more than modern methods (with multiple items of cheatable coursework over many years) - men did better eductaionally in the old days, women now.

    Plus of course the systems of groups preferences are much bigger than in the past and now go right through to influence jobs and salaries.

    Then there is the problem that predictions are too imprecise to be much use at the individual level (except at the extremes) - all of which means that psychometrics is an imprecise guide to educational strategies for individuals.

  2. Bennett6:53 AM

    It cannot have effect in reality, that is what I consider.
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