Industriousness: How Can It Be Learned?
by Robert Eisenberger - University of Delaware Distinguished Lectures/Special Topics
The Romantic tradition in Western civilization, as reflected in the writings of humanistic psychologists, values the gentle nurture of unique talent as a means to individual success. This romantic view gives insufficient recognition to the difficult work needed to become proficient in a field of endeavor (Eisenberger & Cameron, 1996). Biographical studies of the lives of such remarkable scientists and mathematicians as Einstein, Feynman, von Neumann, and Ramanujan reveal the remarkable persistence required for creative achievement (Clark, 1972; Gleick, 1992; Kanigel, 1991; Lanouette, 1992; Macrae, 1992).
Some individuals work harder than others who have equivalent ability and motivation. One student consistently studies more for various courses than another student with similar life goals. A teacher carefully prepares lessons whereas a colleague relies on old, incomplete notes. A factory employee completes tasks rapidly and efficiently whereas another dawdles. Learning may contribute importantly to such individual differences in industriousness.
Almost seven decades ago, J. B. Watson (1930/1970) argued that "the formation of early work habits in youth, of working longer hours than others, of practicing more intensively than others, is probably the most reasonable explanation we have today not only for success in any line, but even for genius" (p. 212). If Watson exaggerated for emphasis, individual differences of industriousness do have an important influence on achievement. Recent research has shed light on mechanisms that contribute to the learning of industriousness.( Collapse )