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Can psychologists accurately measure passion?

A recent study looked at the validity of a questionnaire designed to measure one’s level of passion for achievement.

What does it take to become truly great at something?

We’ve all asked this question before. Most of us, at some point in our life, have taken up a hobby or an activity, which we found particularly interesting. We would look at examples of experts, and ask ourselves, “how can they be this good?”

Psychologists have also become interested in this question. In recent decades, there has been a rise in studies aimed at understanding wellbeing, talent, prowess, and virtuosity. Researchers have been studying exceptionally skillful persons, trying to determine how they become so extraordinary.

Many studies have shown what we have already known: it takes a lot of effort, time, and a particular affinity for the activity. Some researchers have set out to determine what qualities a person should possess to be able to work tirelessly at that activity.

Many such qualities come to mind: interest, curiosity, focus, motivation, etc. Grit and perseverance are especially important, as can be seen in previous studies. However, passion, while understudied, is nonetheless particularly relevant. Passion is the intense feeling we get towards something we value, which then pushes us towards a certain intention and/or behavior.

Passion is particularly important to us, as it may direct our efforts towards a particular affinity. It inspires us to invest time and energy on a consistent basis and becomes a part of our identity.

In a recent study, published in New Ideas in Psychology, a group of researchers examined the efficacy of a scale developed to measure passion. This scale was a questionnaire consisting of eight items, it is intended to measure one’s passion for becoming good in a certain field, skill, or theme.

The study recruited 126 adults living in Iceland, between the ages of 18 and 47. The researchers set out to study how valid the scale is for measuring passion. As part of the process, 107 of the participants also completed a questionnaire measuring levels of grit.

The researchers evaluated the results of these questionnaires, finding that items do correlate to the overall test result. This would mean that each item indeed appears to measure the same construct, i.e., passion. Furthermore, the researchers found that the test scores remained relatively consistent over time when testing and retesting.

Since grit and passion are intertwined, the researchers used the grit questionnaire to measure the validity of their passion scale. One would expect that individuals who are passionate would, to a certain degree, also exhibit grit. The findings show that there was, indeed, a moderate correlation between the two scales.

Such a scale, the researchers suggest, can be very useful in studying how passion plays a role in a person’s achievements. With more research, psychologists could get a better understanding of how people achieve prowess, and how they devote such levels of time and energy.


Written by Maor Bernshtein


Reference: Sigmundsson, H., Haga, M., & Hermundsdottir, F. (2020). The passion scale: Aspects of reliability and validity of a new 8-item scale assessing passion. New Ideas in Psychology, 56, 100745. doi: 10.1016/j.newideapsych.2019.06.001

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Maor Bernshtein
Maor Bernshtein
Maor is currently working on his BSc in psychology from York University in Toronto, Canada. He is interested in psychological research and likes to analyze results and apply them to everyday life. Maor has previously volunteered for The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and is passionate about bringing psychological knowledge back to the people. He hopes that others can benefit from psychological insights through his work and improve their overall life and well-being.


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