Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Upselling of Grit

You might have seen this TED video on the importance of grit

The key pitch as summarized by Daniel Engber at Slate are two ideas: (i) grit is among the best predictors of success, and (ii) we can change the level of grit.

The pitch is successful in part because the first idea seems obvious: we all remember examples of underdogs who overcame incredible odds by triumphing over superior enemies (or overwhelming circumstances) through sheer perseverance and hard work. The second idea appeals to our sensibility of fairness by suggesting that your success is not predestined by the circumstances of birth. Rather, it is within the circle of your influence.

Engber puts it this way:
[...] optimistic message that you find in Grit: It’s possible for all of us to change or, as one book puts it, to feel the triumph of a “neuroplastic transformation.” They tell us that we needn’t be the victims of our meager talents or our lousy genes.
Critical examination reveals a more pessimistic picture. A picture in which that ugly monster, IQ, raises its unwelcome head.

In this interview on Vox "Why IQ matters more than Grit" Resnick has the following exchange with Stuart Ritchie:
BR: I found a lot of this research to be depressing. In your book, you lay out a compelling case that IQ reliably is correlated with longevity, economic success, and physical well-being. You also make it clear that IQ doesn't change all that much throughout our lives. We're kind of stuck with what we've got. I guess I find it unfair. 
SR: First of all, the most important thing to say is that it doesn’t matter if it’s depressing if that’s what the research says. One can’t deny it. 
Think about how it would it be if it was the other way around; there might actually be some bad outcomes. 
Because then parents would be able to totally control their kids with bad parenting, and wreck kids’ IQs for the rest of their lives. Governments could have big influences on people’s IQs by enacting different policies toward different sets of people in the country.
It also turns out that IQ is also strongly correlated with measures like emotional intelligence and grit itself.

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