More than intelligence needed for success in life

November 5, 2018, University of Adelaide
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Research carried out at the University of Adelaide and the University of Bristol has examined long-held beliefs that success in school and careers is due to more than just high intelligence. Non-cognitive skills are also important.

The study, published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour is the first to systematically review the entire literature on effects of non-cognitive skills in children aged 12 or under, on later outcomes in their lives such as , and cognitive and language ability.

"Traits such as attention, self-regulation, and perseverance in childhood have been investigated by psychologists, economists, and epidemiologists, and some have been shown to influence later life outcomes," says Professor John Lynch, School of Public Health, University of Adelaide and senior author of the study.

"There is a wide range of existing under-pinning the role of non-cognitive skills and how they affect success in later life but it's far from consistent," he says.

One of the study's co-authors, Associate Professor Lisa Smithers, School of Public Health, University of Adelaide says: "There is tentative evidence from published studies that non-cognitive skills are associated with academic achievement, psychosocial, and cognitive and language outcomes, but cognitive skills are still important."

One of the strongest findings of their systematic review was that the quality of evidence in this field is lower than desirable. Of over 550 eligible studies, only about 40% were judged to be of sufficient quality.

"So, while interventions to build non-cognitive skills may be important, particularly for disadvantaged children, the existing evidence base underpinning this field has the potential for publication bias and needs to have larger studies that are more rigorously designed. That has important implications for researchers and funding agencies who wish to study effects of non-," says Professor Lynch.

Explore further: Glycemic extremes in T1DM impact cognitive skills in kids

More information: Lisa G. Smithers et al, A systematic review and meta-analysis of effects of early life non-cognitive skills on academic, psychosocial, cognitive and health outcomes, Nature Human Behaviour (2018). DOI: 10.1038/s41562-018-0461-x

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not rated yet Nov 05, 2018
Very good article. The important conclusion it makes is that there are additional social and non-cognitive skills that may be important for success, in addition to intelligence. And they may compensate to an extent for shortage of intelligence. And therefore it is worth a small study, but beware the social sciences bias (such as social is all that is important, and what is intelligence anyway?) Intelligence is important and long proven major correlate.

The abstract concurs with this, but the article is not in the library yet, it always takes a few days after the abstract announcement, so can't vouch this is exactly what the rest of the article says.
Phyllis Harmonic
5 / 5 (2) Nov 05, 2018
Some measure "success" by how much they have; others by how little they need.
not rated yet Nov 05, 2018
Some measure "success" by how much they have; others by how little they need.

neither being correct.

there are additional social and non-cognitive skills that may be important for success

add trait conscientiousness to trait intelligence and you're about 60-70% there

5 / 5 (1) Nov 06, 2018
First requirement is to define "success in life"...

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