We’ve been drip-fed the notion that intelligence is a sure shot way to success. The ones who scores the best in school have a ‘bright future’ ahead of them, the ones who are remotely curious or inquisitive are labelled ‘sharp’ and expected to ‘do well’, and the ‘expert’ is likely to do ‘great things’. IQ – the measure of our intelligence – has always been a number to flaunt, and the higher it is, the better things are likely to be easier for you in life. But a recent study debunks this popular notion and says that your personality has a bigger say in deciding your success or failure, as opposed to how smart you are.
The study, in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of USA, was conducted by a stellar team of researchers, which included Nobel laureate, James Heckman, Lex Borghans, Bart H.H. Golsteyn and John Eric Humphries. The researchers studied international data sets, which included the IQ scores, standardized test results, grades and personality assessments for several thousand people in UK, US and the Netherlands. Some data sets also included information like criminal records, body mass index, and self-reported life satisfaction over a period of decades.
The analysis of the complex data revealed that IQ, in isolation, was no predictor of financial or academic success. But, when personality test scores were taken into the equation, associations with success became cleared. The difference between people’s IQ and income was a measly 1-2%. The results showed that grades and achievement test scores were a better indicator of adult success, rather than simply intelligence, or IQ scores. The authors explained that a higher grade reflects ‘non-cognitive’ skills, such as perseverance, good study habits, concentration, showing that the personality of the individual makes a bigger impact than intelligence alone. These non-cognitive skills, which form the basis of our personality, are related to success in a big way is welcoming news according to the authors. They say, “... personality or non-cognitive skills are more malleable at later ages than IQ, and there are effective adolescent interventions that promote personality but are much less successful in boosting IQ.”
But why are intelligence, personality and luck of relevance to the average employee out there? The authors have been quoted saying, “Our ultimate goal is to improve human well-being, and a major determinant of well-being comes down to skills.... many people fail to break into the job market because they lack skills that aren’t measured on intelligence tests. They don’t understand how to behave with courtesy in job interviews. They may show up late or fail to dress properly. Or on the job, they make it obvious they’ll do no more than the minimum, if that... (the) work could help clarify the complicated, often misunderstood notion of ability.”
The authors of the study conclude, “Measures of personality predict achievement test scores and grades above and beyond IQ scores. Analyses using scores on achievement tests and grades as proxies for IQ conflate the effects of IQ with the effects of personality. Both measures have greater predictive power than IQ and personality alone, because they embody extra dimensions of personality not captured by our measures.”