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Scientists Look To West Point To Better Understand What It Takes To Succeed

“For one to succeed here, all that is required is an ordinary mind and application; the latter is by far the most important and desirable of the two. For men of rather obtuse intellect, by indomitable perseverance, have been known to graduate with honor; while some of the greatest geniuses of the country have been found deficient, for want of application.”

New research forthcoming in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences put this observation to the test. Specifically, a team of researchers led by Angela Duckworth of the University of Pennsylvania examined data from over 11,000 West Point cadets to uncover the cognitive and non-cognitive attributes that were most predictive of cadets’ success.

Their results, though nuanced, suggest that non-cognitive aspects of the human composition – for example, physical ability and mental toughness – cannot be undervalued.

“The question of what predicts success is among the most basic in social science,” state Duckworth and her team. “The past century of empirical research on human accomplishment has disproportionately focused on cognitive ability. […] This investigation underscores the independent roles of cognitive and non-cognitive determinants of achievement.”


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