New research suggests that motivation far surpasses measurable intelligence as a contributing factor to a person’s success. Educational psychology experts, Adele and Allen Gottfried, have extensively researched the nature of self-motivation, and they refer to those who possess the gift of self-motivation “motivationally gifted” people. They assert that Western culture drastically underestimates the value of motivation because it, instead, privileges more easily measurable factors like academic achievement.
One of the main focuses when it comes to appraising the achieving potential of an individual is the commonly known IQ test. It’s perhaps the most trusted and widely used metric for intelligence, and consequently, it’s often used to assess your career potential or likelihood for success — attributes for which the test is arguably an inept measure. Quartz attributes it to people like 23-year-old Gavin Ovsak from Minnesota. He’s among the many who capitalize on the so-called side-hustle economy Millennials have forged. While attending Harvard medical school, he also writes original code for his own software program intended to streamline doctors’ decisions.
“It’s fun for me,” is the baseline of his motivation for the program even amid the work required of him in med school. He already studied biomedical computer science during undergrad at Duke, and he gets so into his the “work” of his side-hustle that he can even forget to eat or clean. People like Ovsak are exactly what the Gottfrieds mean by “motivationally gifted.” A meta-analysis that Angela Duckworth put together in 2011 illustrated that monetary incentives significantly impact IQ scores, which strongly suggests that motivation weighs more than measurable intelligence to the tune of $10 yielding an extra 20 IQ points.
The Gottfrieds collected data on 130 participants in their study for four decades using the Fullerton Longitudinal Study. They studied both motivation and scholastic savvy, and they found participants who scored higher than others on tests that measure intrinsic motivation proved more successful academically as well as professionally. Beyond that, the study found no crossover between them and those referred to as intellectually gifted, which is measured as those who scored over 130 on IQ tests. The Gottfrieds claim that “Teaching the desire to learn may be as important as teaching academic skills.”
Expert psychologists are now questioning why IQ tests bear the kind of weight that they do. They advocate that the entirety of the academic community retool testing methods and means of success. “Educations is so skills-oriented, so competency oriented, they just seem to forget about motivation. Everybody could potentially be motivationally gifted, given the right encouragement.”
Motivation isn’t easy to come by, though, which is why there are so many self-help books, podcasts, and other media formats. Self-help, in fact, is its own industry with a wide-area market in the US, for example, and it’s not just representative of the demand for DVDs, blogs or podcasts. It’s a market that has many niches, too — ways to motivate oneself with specific goals that pertain to career advancement in certain fields or how to get rid of procrastination tendencies. Elite Daily reported only a day ago on the nature of mustering motivation during the holidays. The Elite Daily piece advocates exercising outdoors, committing to five minutes of daily meditation each day, eating things that make you happier, prioritizing fun, having sex, and enjoying nature among other things. It’s necessitated by the rationale that people sometimes lose the ability to handle responsibilities efficiently.
The Gottfrieds studied 130 infants; 90 percent of whom were White, and almost all of them were on the middle-class spectrum in its broadest sense. The sheer amount of data they collected is being viewed as a treasure trove of information important for working parents and temperament among other things. They got data on the parents and teachers of participants as well as the subjects’ transcripts. The Fullerton Longitudinal Study accrued approximately 18,000 distinct information items on all 107 participants. “It’s our life’s work,” Allen explains. “We’ll take it to our grave.”
The Gottfrieds feel that their most significant findings have to do with motivation like kids getting higher scores on tests that measure intrinsic, academic motivation. In other words, kids that actually enjoyed learning were the ones who achieved the most. Teachers viewed them as having learned more, retained more knowledge and arguably worked harder. They kept seeking similar challenges as young adults as well and ultimately got opportunities that others didn’t. Around 19 percent of the babies chosen for the study went on to score 130 or more on the IQ test. Adele Gottfried says that motivation “in itself is accounting for a certain amount of variance in achievement that goes above and beyond IQ.”
The Gottfrieds observed highly motivated participants flourish academically as they looked for indicators of how the motivationally gifted become motivationally gifted.