While people with more ‘grit’ may have more self-control, they may not have greater cognitive ability. The corresponding study was published in PLOS ONE.
‘Grit’ may be defined as perseverance when pursuing long-term goals even when difficulties arise. The quality may be measured with the ‘Grit Scale’, a ten-item questionnaire including items such as ‘I am diligent. I never give up’ and ‘My interests change from year to year'. Although the quality has been linked to wellbeing, educational achievement, and success in life, until now, no studies have directly examined its relationship to cognitive functioning.
In the present study, researchers asked 134 participants to complete questionnaires evaluating their grit, impulsivity, and mindfulness. Participants were also asked to complete computer-based assessments for various aspects of cognitive ability, including flexibility, inhibition, and working memory.
After analyzing the data, the researchers noted that higher grit scores did not correspond to higher overall cognitive ability. In line with earlier research, however, they noted that higher grit scores were associated with lower impulsivity and higher levels of mindfulness- both of which are also related to self-regulation.
The researchers further noted that those with more grit exhibited a more ‘cautious profile of control'. This was characterized as paying attention to all available information and relying less on previous contextual cues while remaining sensitive to conflicting information in a given context.
These findings, they noted, match suggestions from Angela Duckworth, founder and CEO of the Character Lab and developer of the Grit Scale, that rather than having a higher cognitive capacity, people with high grit simply use whatever capacity they have differently from others.
The researchers say that future research should include a more comprehensive measure of grit and consider ‘fluid intelligence’- the ability to solve problems and use reason without previously existing knowledge.