Angela Duckworth

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Angela Duckworth
Angela Duckworth, 2017 (cropped).jpg
Angela Duckworth, in 2017
Born1970 (age 48–49)
Alma materHarvard College
University of Oxford
University of Pennsylvania
Spouse(s)Jason Duckworth (m. 1998)
AwardsMacArthur Fellowship Marshall Scholarship
Scientific career

Angela Lee Duckworth (born 1970) is an American academic, psychologist and popular science author. She is the Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania,[1] where she studies grit and self-control. She is also the Founder and CEO of Character Lab, a not-for-profit whose mission is to advance the science and practice of character development.


Duckworth earned an B.A. in neurobiology at Harvard College in 1992. She then graduated from the University of Oxford in 1996 with an M.Sc. in neuroscience on a Marshall Scholarship, and from the University of Pennsylvania in 2006 with a Ph.D. in psychology.[2][1] She was awarded a MacArthur Genius Fellowship in 2013.[2]

Her first book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, was released in May 2016.[3] It stayed on The New York Times best seller list for more than 20 weeks. A review of this book in The New York Times called Duckworth "the psychologist who has made 'grit' the reigning buzzword in education-policy circles."[4]


See main page on grit (personality trait).

Duckworth is best known for her research on grit, a strength she defines as passion and perseverance for especially long-term goals. Grit is related to the long-established personality trait of conscientiousness, but predicts certain outcomes above and beyond what conscientiousness can. She has found grit to be a common factor in the high-achievers she has studied. When it comes to consequential life outcomes, grit has been shown to be at least as important as IQ or socio-economic status.

Grit has been studied across the lifespan, but Duckworth focuses primarily on how building it can help adolescents.[5] This falls under the umbrella of character education and the movement to expand school instruction beyond solely cognitive factors. However, meta-analyses have found no evidence that grit is linked to superior performance. Moreover, Duckworth's operationalization of grit has been criticized as a mere renaming of the previously established construct "conscientiousness."[6]

Since the introduction of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in 2015, there has been a growing call for effective ways to measure character strengths.[7] Duckworth herself though has encouraged caution when applying and, especially, testing character in classrooms.[8] One reason is that existing measures were designed for scientific purposes, and so as yet there are no reliable ways to measure grit in high-stakes situations, like college admissions or job applications.[9]

Some claim that focusing on grit would lead to the neglect of other important factors, like the positive socio-economic prerequisites necessary to deploy it.[10] Duckworth acknowledges the importance of environmental factors and says that it's not that one matters more than the other but rather that they both matter: "The question is not whether we should concern ourselves with grit or structural barriers to achievement. In the most profound sense, both are important, and more than that, they are intertwined." [11]


  1. ^ a b "Angela Duckworth". University of Pennsylvania, Department of Psychology. Retrieved 2013-11-07.
  2. ^ a b "Angela Duckworth". MacArthur Foundation. 2013-09-25. Retrieved 2013-11-07. Age: 43
  3. ^ "Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance".
  4. ^ Shulevitz, Judith (May 4, 2016). "'Grit,' by Angela Duckworth". The New York Times. Retrieved August 16, 2016.
  5. ^ "Angela Duckworth". Angela Duckworth. Retrieved 2018-03-05.
  6. ^ Credé, M.; Tynan, M.C.; Harms, P.D. (September 2017). "Much ado about grit: A meta-analytic synthesis of the grit literature". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 113. doi:10.1037/pspp0000102.
  7. ^ "ESSA Law Broadens Definition of School Success". Education Week. Retrieved 2018-03-05.
  8. ^ Duckworth, Angela (2016-03-26). "Opinion | Don't Grade Schools on Grit". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-03-05.
  9. ^ Duckworth & Yeager (2015). "Measurement matters: Assessing personal qualities other than cognitive ability for educational purposes" (PDF). Educational Researcher. 44 (4): 237–251.
  10. ^ Rose, Mike (May 14, 2015). "Why teaching kids to have 'grit' isn't always a good thing". Washington Post.
  11. ^ "Angela Duckworth". Angela Duckworth. Retrieved 2018-03-05.

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