Saturday, April 9, 2011

When Can We Measure Grit?

Jonah Lehrer's interesting, 15,000 character article about measuring NFL quarterbacks concludes by saying that we have neglected grit in favor of IQ because "grit can't be evaluated in a single afternoon". But this is clearly not true, as earlier in the same article he notes that Angela Duckworth has developed a survey for grit that predicts (well) both Westpoint cadet graduation rates and spelling bee performance. Here (pdf) is Duckworth's rating system for grit, including "self-report and informant-report versions of the Grit Scale, which measures trait-level perseverance and passion for long-term goals." So what's the deal?

I suspect grit is shunned as an aptitude test not because it is un-measurable, but because it is game-able. That is, if NFL scouts started judging players on how they rated themselves 1-10 on perseverance and passion, the players would all give themselves 10's on everything, except maybe one or two 9's to maintain some semblance of honesty. With millions of dollars on the line, wouldn't you?

Still, it does seem to me that you could measure grit in an afternoon, if you wanted to. You'd just have to test it when the player doesn't suspect she is being tested.