Vocational Interests and Performance: A Quantitative Summary of Over 60 Years of Research

Perspect Psychol Sci. 2012 Jul;7(4):384-403. doi: 10.1177/1745691612449021.


Despite early claims that vocational interests could be used to distinguish successful workers and superior students from their peers, interest measures are generally ignored in the employee selection literature. Nevertheless, theoretical descriptions of vocational interests from vocational and educational psychology have proposed that interest constructs should be related to performance and persistence in work and academic settings. Moreover, on the basis of Holland's (1959, 1997) theoretical predictions, congruence indices, which quantify the degree of similarity or person-environment fit between individuals and their occupations, should be more strongly related to performance than interest scores alone. Using a comprehensive review of the interest literature that spans more than 60 years of research, a meta-analysis was conducted to examine the veracity of these claims. A literature search identified 60 studies and approximately 568 correlations that addressed the relationship between interests and performance. Results showed that interests are indeed related to performance and persistence in work and academic contexts. In addition, the correlations between congruence indices and performance were stronger than for interest scores alone. Thus, consistent with interest theory, the fit between individuals and their environment was more predictive of performance than interest alone.

Keywords: grades; performance; person–environment fit; vocational interests.