40 year old ongoing study into preschool still providing insight

American RadioWorks: Emily Hanford: Early Lessons: “doing well in school, and in life, is about more than a test score.”:

“Now you’re getting into something really deep,” says economist James Heckman. “How is it that motivation is affected? What causes motivation?”

Heckman is a Nobel laureate who teaches at the University of Chicago. Preschool was not among his interests until he came across the Perry Study several years ago. What caught his attention is the apparent paradox at its core: The people who went to preschool were not “smarter” than their peers, but they did better.

The assumption at the heart of a lot of economic theory is that measured intelligence is the key to everything. But with the Perry Preschool children, something else made the difference. It was not IQ. Heckman is now working with psychologists to try to understand how the preschool may have affected the development of what he calls “non-cognitive” skills, things like motivation, sociability and the ability to work with others.

These are critical skills that help people succeed at school, at work – and in life.

And as it turns out, the Perry preschool children did do better in life.