Any teacher can tell you that smarts alone do not a good student make. But psychologists had never rigorously studied the connection between self-discipline and academic success, says former teacher Angela L. Duckworth, now a psychology graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania. Duckworth and her adviser, Martin E. P. Seligman, gave 300 eighth graders, their teachers and their parents a questionnaire about the students’ ability to control impulses and follow rules. They also gave the children another questionnaire and behavioral test to assess their willingness to delay gratification. The reported self-discipline predicted final grades, school attendance and work habits better than IQ did. Moreover, the stronger the discipline, the better the outcomes.

The results could encourage young students to toe the line. Still, the research method may not be practical for routinely evaluating children, Duckworth says. “The effort that’s involved in a study like this is kind of humongous.”


  • Fish is brain food. Although many dietary wives' tales have no basis in science, this one apparently holds up. Recent studies show that six-month-old babies whose mothers ate more fish during their second trimester of pregnancy score higher on cognitive tests, and senior citizens who eat fish at least once a week do better on memory and mental acuity exams than peers who do not.
  • The widower effect is strikingly real, according to a massive study released in February by Harvard Medical School and the University of Pennsylvania. For nine years, researchers followed more than 518,000 couples older than 65. The death of a wife in the previous 30 days increased a husband's risk of death by 53 percent, and the death of a husband increased a wife's risk of death by 61 percent. Additionally, the hospitalization of one partner elevated health risks for the other partner for nearly two years.
  • Bartenders, as well as drinkers at home, unintentionally pour 20 to 30 percent more liquor into short, wide glasses than tall, slender ones when making a mixed drink. Economics professor Brian Wansink of Cornell University explains that people perceive tall glasses as holding more than short ones of the same volume—an optical illusion. They also focus on the level of the liquid, insufficiently compensating for its diameter and thus the total volume.