Gritty people try harder: grit and effort-related cardiac autonomic activity during an active coping challenge

Int J Psychophysiol. 2013 May;88(2):200-5. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2013.04.007. Epub 2013 Apr 18.


Grit, a recently proposed personality trait associated with persistence for long-range goals, predicts achievement in a wide range of important life outcomes. Using motivational intensity theory, the present research examined the physiological underpinnings of grit during an active coping task. Forty young adults completed the Short Grit Scale and worked on a self-paced mental effort task. Effort-related autonomic nervous system (ANS) activity was assessed using impedance cardiography, which yielded measures of sympathetic activity (pre-ejection period; PEP) and parasympathetic activity (respiratory sinus arrhythmia; RSA). Multilevel models revealed that people high on the Perseverance of Effort subscale showed autonomic coactivation: both PEP and RSA became stronger during the task, reflecting higher activity of both ANS divisions. The Consistency of Interest subscale, in contrast, predicted only weaker sympathetic activity (slower PEP). Taken together, the findings illuminate autonomic processes associated with how "gritty" people pursue goals, and they suggest that more attention should be paid to the facets' distinct effects.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological / physiology*
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Respiratory Mechanics / physiology*
  • Thinking / physiology*