Self-Discipline Predicts Success

Topic(s): job performance, personality, selection
Publication: Psychological Science (2005)
Article: Self-Discipline Outdoes IQ in Predicting Academic Performance of Adolescents
Authors: A.L. Duckworth M.E.P. Seligman
Reviewed by: Scott Charles Sitrin

What predicts academic achievement? Is it intellectual ability or hard work and self-discipline? Though much research has examined the relationship between intellectual ability (e.g., IQ) and academic achievement, significantly less research has investigated the relationship between self-discipline and academic achievement. In addressing this void, Angela Duckworth and Martin Seligman assessed the self-discipline, IQ, and academic achievement of 164 adolescents.


Results showed that self-discipline predicted standardized achievement-test scores, final grades, school attendance, and selection into a competitive high school program. Further, self-discipline accounted for more than twice as much of the variance as IQ in final grades, high school selection, school attendance, hours spent doing homework, and hours spent watching television. These results suggest that self-discipline, not IQ, is the greatest predictor of academic success.


This research appears to be applicable to domains other than academics, such as executive assessment. Though intellectual ability is a relevant quality to consider when
assessing a potential executive, self-discipline appears to be at least equally important.


Duckworth, A. L., & Seligman, M. E. (2005). Self-Discipline Outdoes IQ in Predicting Academic Performance of Adolescents. Psychological Science, 16(12), 939-944.

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