The “reproducibility crisis” has really benefited some sectors of science journalism, as there is less credulous amplification of spurious results. That being said, motivated reasoning is powerful. They “want to believe.”
So when I saw this piece in Quartz, Highly motivated kids have a greater advantage in life than kids with a high IQ, I immediately scanned for what I usually look for, and found it:
Over the next four decades, the Gottfrieds and several colleagues collected a staggering trove of data on the study participants, yielding important insights into working parents, temperament, and other topics. Researchers collected information about participants from parents, teachers and transcripts, tested their IQ and motivation levels,and even visited their homes. In all, the Fullerton Longitudinal Study has amassed an estimated 18,000 pieces of information on each of the remaining 107 participants. “It’s our life’s work,” says Allen cheerfully. “We’ll take it to our grave.”
107 participants. Lots of information huh? Things that make you go hm….. Also, 19% of the children had IQs of 130 or above. About 2% of the population has an IQ at this level. The sample size was relatively small, and the sample was very unrepresentative.
This doesn’t mean that there aren’t real results in these data. But I don’t think they warrant the fanfare in the title, except for the fact that people want a silver bullet that will abolish social inequality.
Even the text itself doesn’t justify the title at all (to be fair, usually headline writers differ from the persons writing the text of a piece): “[Motivation] in itself is accounting for a certain amount of variance in achievement that goes above and beyond IQ….” That is, they don’t even say it accounts for more of the variance, only that there is variance that isn’t accounted for by IQ (which everyone already agreed upon).
Finally, I’ve spent my life around highly educated and intelligent people a bit perplexed and befuddled by my diverse interests. This includes in academia. So I can see that there is a difference between people for whom learning is a means to a professional and social ends, and for those whom learning is the ends. I suspect the ancients could have told you this!