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Moving Ahead by Thinking Backwards: Cognitive Skills, Personality, and Economic Preferences in Collegiate Success

  • Stephen V. Burks

    ()

    (Division of Social Science, University of Minnesota Morris)

  • Connor Lewis

    (Division of Science and Math, University of Minnesota Morris)

  • Paul Kivia

    (Division of Social Science, University of Minnesota Morris)

  • Amanda Wiener

    (Division of Social Science, University of Minnesota Morris)

  • Jon E. Anderson

    (Division of Science and Math, University of Minnesota Morris)

  • Lorenz Götten

    (Faculty of Business and Economics, University of Lausanne)

  • Colin DeYoung

    (Department of Psychology, University of Minnesota Twin Cities)

  • Aldo Rustichini

    (Department of Economics, University of Minnesota Twin Cities)

We collected personality (Big Five) and demographic characteristics, and ran incentivized experiments measuring cognitive skills (non-verbal IQ, numeracy, backward induction/planning), and economic (time, risk) preferences, with 100 students at a small public undergraduate liberal arts college in the Midwestern US as part of a larger study that collected the same measures from 1,065 trainee truckers. Using standardized (z-score) versions of our variables we analyze their relative power to predict (1) timely graduation (four years or less), (2) graduation in six years or less, and (3) final GPA. The proactive aspect of Conscientious (but not the inhibitive one) has a large and robust positive effect on all three outcomes, and Agreeableness has a robust negative effect on both graduation outcomes, but not on GPA. Economic time preferences predict graduation in four years, and GPA. Cognitive skill measures predict as expected if entered individually in a multivariate model, but when all variables compete it is only our backward induction measure (“Hit15â€) that weakly predicts graduation in four years, and strongly predicts graduation in six years. Trainee truckers work in a different vocational setting and their results are appropriately different, but there is a common element: Hit15 also predicts job success (completing a one year employment contract that makes training free). We interpret Hit15 as capturing a specific part of the cognitive skills required for selfmanagement in non-routine settings—thinking backward from future goals to make the best current choice—that is not well measured by existing instruments, and suggest this deserves further scientific and institutional scrutiny

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Paper provided by The Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, School of Economics, University of Nottingham in its series Discussion Papers with number 2014-01.

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Date of creation: Jan 2014
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Handle: RePEc:not:notcdx:2014-01
Contact details of provider: Postal: School of Economics University of Nottingham University Park Nottingham NG7 2RD
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Web page: http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/economics/cedex/

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  1. Burks, Stephen V. & Carpenter, Jeffrey P. & Götte, Lorenz & Rustichini, Aldo, 2011. "Which Measures of Time Preference Best Predict Outcomes? Evidence from a Large-Scale Field Experiment," IZA Discussion Papers 5808, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Lex Borghans & Angela Lee Duckworth & James J. Heckman & Bas ter Weel, 2008. "The Economics and Psychology of Personality Traits," NBER Working Papers 13810, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Gneezy, Uri & Rustichini, Aldo & Vostroknutov, Alexander, 2010. "Experience and insight in the Race game," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 75(2), pages 144-155, August.
  4. Stratton, Leslie S. & O'Toole, Dennis M. & Wetzel, James N., 2005. "A Multinomial Logit Model of College Stopout and Dropout Behavior," IZA Discussion Papers 1634, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  5. 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.
  6. Laibson, David I., 1997. "Golden Eggs and Hyperbolic Discounting," Scholarly Articles 4481499, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  7. Joseph Henrich & Steve J. Heine & Ara Norenzayan, 2010. "The Weirdest People in the World?," Working Paper Series of the German Council for Social and Economic Data 139, German Council for Social and Economic Data (RatSWD).
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