Is having Grit different to being Conscientious?
Grit. Perseverance. Determination. Call it what you will, we tend to think of these characteristics as essential foundation for success. Indeed, some say that a high rating on 'grit' is what marks out high achievers from the rest.
But is grit a personality trait in its own right? If so, do we need to measure it separately?
The two constructs of ‘grit’ and ‘conscientiousness’ are, without doubt, closely connected – and in fact research has shown this to be the case (Credé, Tynan, & Harms, 2016). But in their meta-analysis, Credé et al also showed that the two facets of grit – perseverance and consistency – differ in their usefulness for predicting achievement outcomes. They found that perseverance is more predictive of achievement. It seems that the grit-conscientiousness relationship needs further research to understand it better, and a recent study by Schmidt, Nagy, Fleckenstein, Möller and Retelsdorf focused on this.
Schmidt and his team of researchers worked with two samples (school pupils and adults) and asked them to complete an assessment of Grit – the Grit scale - and the Conscientiousness items of the Big Five personality assessment Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness Personality Inventory-Revised (NEO PI-R).
The Grit scale includes two facets; a) Perseverance of Effort and b) Consistency of Effort.
The Conscientious trait of the NEO PI-R includes sub-traits or facets of Competence, Order, Dutifulness, Achievement Striving, Self-discipline and Deliberation.
The team analysed the variance in participants’ answers by comparing them across the two facets of the Grit scale mentioned above.
Their findings suggest that:
The Perseverance scale of grit shared 95 percent of its variance with the trait of Conscientiousness, with its more ‘pro-active’ sub-traits relating to being industrious and driven.
The global, general trait of grit shared a large amount of variance with Conscientiousness, with the same sub-traits as above.
The Consistency facet of grit (which is concerned with focus) shared only 69 percent of its variance with Conscientiousness - which means it was also measuring something else – but was correlated with the Self-discipline facet.
What does this mean in practice?
It seems that when we talk of grit, we use it synonymously with, and as an alternative to, the ‘driven’ aspects of the trait of conscientiousness. The researchers make the point that, because of this, grit is not a separate trait.
However, what about the element of focus and consistency that form part of grit? It seems that this is not part of Conscientiousness but whether this is something different requires further research.
Credé, M., Tynan, M. C., & Harms, P. D. (2016). Much ado about grit: A meta‐analytic synthesis of the grit literature. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1037/pspp0000102.
Schmidt, F. T.C., Nagy, G., Fleckenstein, J., Möller, J. and Retelsdorf, J. (2018). European Journal of Personality, Same Same, but Different? Relations Between Facets of Conscientiousness and Grit https://doi.org/10.1002/per.2171.