Self-Discipline Outdoes IQ

July 6, 2011 Katharina Lochner

The Effect of Self-Disclipine on Students and Grades

Why do some kids do a lot better at school than others, even if they are equally intelligent? Why do some promising students finish university with outstanding grades, whereas others do not, even if they have equal scores on IQ tests when entering university?

Angela Duckworth and Martin Seligman from the University of Pennsylvania attribute these differences to self-discipline. In their studies, they assessed students’ self-discipline using self-report measures as well as parent and teacher reports and self-discipline tasks, along with students’ IQ. Seven months later, they recorded students’ academic grades. They found that self-discipline predicted academic achievement far more robust than IQ and also predicted which students would improve their grades throughout the school year.

The original article can be found on Angela Duckworth’s homepage.

On the TV show Nitebeat, she gives an interview on the study.

Remember the marshmallow study reported in another of our blog posts? In this study, the researchers found that children with higher levels of self-control were at adult age healthier and better off financially. They were also less likely to commit crimes and to become substance dependent. Therefore, self-discipline seems to be a really important factor for a happy, productive life.

So what can we do to become more self-disciplined? Like it is the case with all personality traits, part of it is inherited. But the other part can be changed. However, Duckworth has not found any concrete measures or programmes that could be taken in order to achieve better self-discipline. But in one of her articles, she mentions that changing one’s time perspective could help: Practice conceptualising your future and consider the effects the things you do now will have in future. This is a topic on which Philip Zimbardo has done extensive research – and probably a topic that deserves its own post!

About the Author

Katharina Lochner

Dr Katharina Lochner is the former research director for the cut-e Group which was acquired by Aon in 2017. Katharina is now a researcher and lecturer at the University of Applied Sciences Europe in Iserlohn, Germany. In her role at cut-e, she applied the research in organizational and work psychology to real-world assessment practice. She has a strong expertise in the construction and evaluation of online psychometric tools.

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