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Cognitive skills, personality, and economic preferences in collegiate success


  • Burks, Stephen V.
  • Lewis, Connor
  • Kivi, Paul A.
  • Wiener, Amanda
  • Anderson, Jon E.
  • Götte, Lorenz
  • DeYoung, Colin G.
  • Rustichini, Aldo


We collected multiple measures from 100 students at a small public undergraduate liberal arts college in the Midwestern US and later assessed their academic success. The “proactive” (hard-working, persistent) aspect of the Big Five trait of Conscientiousness and not its “inhibitive” (organized, careful) aspect is a large positive predictor for two graduation outcomes and grade point average (GPA). The Big Five trait of Agreeableness (“pro-sociality”) is a large and negative predictor for graduation outcomes. A non-standard cognitive skill measure (a backward-induction game) positively predicts graduation outcomes, in parallel with its success in predicting vocational student job success (Burks et al., 2009). Patient time preferences predict one graduation outcome and GPA.

Suggested Citation

  • Burks, Stephen V. & Lewis, Connor & Kivi, Paul A. & Wiener, Amanda & Anderson, Jon E. & Götte, Lorenz & DeYoung, Colin G. & Rustichini, Aldo, 2015. "Cognitive skills, personality, and economic preferences in collegiate success," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 115(C), pages 30-44.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:115:y:2015:i:c:p:30-44
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2015.01.007

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Bart H.H. Golsteyn & Hans Grönqvist & Lena Lindahl, 2014. "Adolescent Time Preferences Predict Lifetime Outcomes," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 124(580), pages 739-761, November.
    2. Stratton, Leslie S. & O'Toole, Dennis M. & Wetzel, James N., 2008. "A multinomial logit model of college stopout and dropout behavior," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 27(3), pages 319-331, June.
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    4. Burks, Stephen & Carpenter, Jeffrey & Götte, Lorenz & Rustichini, Aldo, 2012. "Which measures of time preference best predict outcomes: Evidence from a large-scale field experiment," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 84(1), pages 308-320.
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    8. Stephen V. Burks & Jeffrey Carpenter & Lorenz Götte & Kristen Monaco & Kay Porter & Aldo Rustichini, 2008. "Using Behavioral Economic Field Experiments at a Firm: The Context and Design of the Truckers and Turnover Project," NBER Chapters,in: The Analysis of Firms and Employees: Quantitative and Qualitative Approaches, pages 45-106 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    14. Rustichini, Aldo & DeYoung, Colin G. & Anderson, Jon E. & Burks, Stephen V., 2012. "Toward the Integration of Personality Theory and Decision Theory in the Explanation of Economic and Health Behavior," IZA Discussion Papers 6750, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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    Cited by:

    1. Humphries, John Eric & Kosse, Fabian, 2017. "On the interpretation of non-cognitive skills – What is being measured and why it matters," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 136(C), pages 174-185.
    2. Peter Hoeschler & Uschi Backes-Gellner, 2017. "The Relative Importance of Personal Characteristics for the Hiring of Young Workers," Economics of Education Working Paper Series 0142, University of Zurich, Department of Business Administration (IBW), revised Jan 2018.
    3. Larbi Alaoui & Christian Fons-Rosen, 2016. "Know when to fold 'em: The grit factor," Economics Working Papers 1521, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised May 2016.
    4. Friehe, Tim & Schildberg-Hörisch, Hannah, 2017. "Predicting norm enforcement: The individual and joint predictive power of economic preferences, personality, and self-control," DICE Discussion Papers 265, University of Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf Institute for Competition Economics (DICE).
    5. repec:kap:ejlwec:v:45:y:2018:i:1:d:10.1007_s10657-017-9556-5 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item


    Graduation; Big Five; Conscientiousness; Aspect; Cognitive skill; Economic preferences;

    JEL classification:

    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • C99 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Other


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