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Hiring and school decisions based on an individual’s ‘passion’ likely to miss talent, Stanford-led study shows

Xingyu Li
(Image credit: Courtesy Graduate School of Education)
Mar 11 2021
Fellow, Research, Stanford, Students

Imagine you’re hiring for a job or admitting students to a college: One applicant expresses great passion for the work, while another points to family encouragement to attend that institution or pursue that field. Which applicant is more likely to succeed?

Conventional wisdom – at least in the United States – suggests it would be the one who cites a strong personal passion. But according to a new Stanford-led study, the answer depends on the applicant’s culture.

Passion is not “a universally powerful cornerstone of achievement,” the researchers found, and the culture a person grew up in makes a big difference. That means universities and companies that rely on passion in candidates are missing out on talent, especially applicants from low-income, non-white, immigrant communities..

The study, published on March 16 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, finds that passion – measured as felt interest, enjoyment and efficacy – is a much stronger predictor of achievement in certain societies than others.

Lead author, Xingyu Li, is a 2015 SGF Fellow.

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