Angela Lee DuckworthOn December 16, 2011, we had a wonderful interview with ground-breaking Positive Psychologist, Angela Lee Duckworth, Ph.D., known for her original, widely heralded research on grit and self-control.

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TEDxBLUE: True Grit--Can Perseverance be Taught

Dr. Angela Lee Duckworth is an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. Angela studies non-IQ competencies, including grit and self-control, that predict success both academically and professionally. Her research populations have included West Point cadets, National Spelling Bee finalists, novice teachers, salespeople, and students.

Angela received a BA in Neurobiology from Harvard in 1992 and, as a Marshall Scholar, a Masters in Neuroscience from Oxford.
Angela founded a non-profit summer school for low-income children that won the Better Government Award for the state of Massachusetts and was profiled as a Harvard Kennedy School case study. Angela has also been a McKinsey management consultant and, for four years, a math teacher in the public schools of San Francisco, Philadelphia, and New York City.

She completed her PhD in psychology at the University of Pennsylvania.

As a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, Angela worked with the renowned Martin E. P. Seligman. In Chapter 6 of Dr. Seligman’s latest book Flourish: Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being, he details the unusual admission of Angela Lee Duckworth to the Department of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. Of Angela, he says, “Here was just the right sort of maverick: someone with very high intellectual credentials and a sterling education but not housebroken enough by politics to prevent her doing serious research on the character strengths of students who succeed and the character deficits of students who fail.”

As an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, Angela continues to study competencies other than general intelligence that predict academic and professional achievement. Her research centers on self-control (the ability to regulate emotions, thoughts, and feelings in the service of valued goals) and grit (perseverance and sustained interest in long-term goals). Angela says, “I am particularly interested in the subjective experience of exerting self-control and grit – and conscious strategies which facilitate adaptive behavior in the face of temptation, frustration, and distraction.”

In The New York Times Magazine Education Issue Paul Tough writes about a project on which Angela worked while a Penn graduate student. The KIPP Infinity School in NYC incorporated Angela’s research in order to move the school’s focus toward character development, particularly the development of grit and self-control.

In her ongoing work to improve the concentration and effort of children, via their using grit and self-control, Angela says that “paradoxically and wonderfully, we should free up more time for play, running around and just enjoying childhood.”



12-Item Grit Scale
8-Item Grit Scale
Ambition Scale


Duckworth, A., Quinn, P., Tsukayama, E. (in press). What No Child Left Behind leaves behind: The roles of IQ and self-control in predicting standardized achievement test scores and report card grades. Journal of Educational Psychology. (pdf)

Gollwitzer, A., Oettingen, G., Kirby, T. & Duckworth, A. (in press). Mental contrasting facilitates academic performance in school children. Motivation and Emotion.

Almlund, M., Duckworth, A., Heckman, J., & Kautz, T. (in press). Personality psychology and economics. In E.A. Hanushek, S. Machin & L. Wößmann (Eds.), Handbook of the economics of education.Amsterdam: Elsevier. (pdf)

Kross, E., Duckworth, A.L., Ayduk, O., Tsukayama, E., & Mischel, W. (in press). Differential effects of self-distanced vs. self-immersed reflection for  affect and cognition among children. Emotion.

Roberts, B., Jackson, J., Duckworth, A.L., Von Culin, K. (2011). Personality measurement andassessment in large panel surveys. Forum for Health Economics & Policy, 14(3). Retrieved from (pdf)  

Duckworth, A. L. & Kern, M.L. (2011). A meta-analysis of the convergent validity of self-control measures. Journal of Research in Personality, 35(3), 259-268. (pdf)

Duckworth, A. L. (2011). The significance of self-control. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108(7), 2639-40. (pdf)  

Duckworth, A., Grant, H., Loew, B., Oettingen, G. & Gollwitzer, P. M. (2011). Self-regulation strategies improve self-discipline in adolescents: benefits of mental contrasting and implementation intentions. Educational Psychology: An International Journal of Experimental Educational Psychology31(1), 17-26. (pdf)  

Duckworth, A. L., Quinn, P. D., Lynam, D. R., Loeber, R., & Stouthamer-Loeber, M. (2011). Role of test motivation in intelligence testing.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108(19), 7716-20. (pdf)

Duckworth, A., Kirby, T., Tsukayama, E., Berstein, H., Ericsson, K. (2010). Deliberate practice spells success: Why grittier competitors triumph at the National Spelling Bee. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 2, 174-181. (pdf)  

Duckworth, A.L., Tsukayama, E. & May, H. (2010). Establishing causality using longitudinal hierarchical linear modeling: An illustration predicting achievement from self-control. Social Psychology and Personality Science, 1(4), 311-317. (pdf)  

Tsukayama, E., Toomey, S.L., Faith, M., & Duckworth, A.L. (2010). Self-control protects against overweight status in the transition to adolescence. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine,164(7), 631-635. (pdf)

Duckworth, A.L., Tsukayama, E., & Geier, A.B.. (2010). Self-controlled children stay leaner in the transition to adolescence. Appetite, 54(2), 304-308. (pdf)

Tsukayama, E., Duckworth, A. (2010). Domain-specific temporal discounting and temptation. Judgment and Decision Making, 5(2), 72-82. (pdf)

Romer, D., Duckworth, A.L., Sznitman, S., & Park, S. (2010). Can adolescents learn self-control? Delay of gratification in the development of control over risk taking. Prevention Science, 11(3), 319-330.(pdf)

Duckworth, A.L. (2009). Backtalk: Self-discipline is empowering. Phi Delta Kappan, 90(7), 536. (pdf)  

Duckworth, A.L., Quinn, P.D., & Seligman, M.E.P. (2009) Positive predictors of teacher effectiveness.Journal of Positive Psychology, 19, 540-547 . (pdf)

MacCann, C., Duckworth, A.L., & Roberts, R.D. (2009) Empirical identification of the major facets of conscientiousness. Learning and Individual Differences, 19, 451-458. (pdf)

Duckworth, A.L. (2009). (Over and) beyond high-stakes testing. American Psychologist, 64(4), 279-280.(pdf)

Duckworth, A.L, & Quinn, P.D. (2009). Development and validation of the Short Grit Scale (Grit-S).Journal of Personality Assessment, 91, 166-174. (pdf)

Borghans, L., Duckworth, A.L., Heckman, J.J., & ter Weel, B. (2008). The economics and psychology of personality traits. Journal of Human Resources, 43(4), 972-1059. (pdf)

Duckworth, A.L., Peterson, C., Matthews, M.D., & Kelly, D.R. (2007). Grit: Perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92(6), 1087-1101. (pdf)

Duckworth, A. L., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2006). Self-discipline gives girls the edge: Gender in self-discipline, grades, and achievement test scores. Journal of Educational Psychology, 98(1), 198-208.(pdf)

Duckworth, A. L., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2005). Self-discipline outdoes IQ in predicting academic performance of adolescents. Psychological Science, 16(12), 939-944. (pdf)

Duckworth, A. L., Steen, T. A., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2005). Positive psychology in clinical practice.Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 1(1), 629-651. (pdf)

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