Cognitive skills, personality, and economic preferences in collegiate success

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)30-44
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Economic Behavior and Organization
StatePublished - Jul 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors benefitted from comments received at the Workshop on Self-control, Self-regulation and Education at Århus University, Århus, Denmark, and especially from those of two anonymous referees and the editor of the special issue, Helena Skyt Nielsen. The authors gratefully acknowledge financial support for the Truckers and Turnover Project from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation's Research Network on the Nature and Origin of Preferences , the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation , the Trucking Industry Program at the Georgia Institute of Technology , and the University of Minnesota , Morris, and both financial and in-kind support from the cooperating motor carrier. The views expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of any of the supporting institutions.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Elsevier B.V.


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


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