Oxford English dictionary

Perseverance is a personality trait that the Oxford English dictionary defines as “persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success”. (Please note that, for this report, the definition of success is “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose”.) Perseverance and passion for long-term goals is the single most important factor in success- even more so than intelligence, or talent (Duckworth A, 2007). A similar study showed that school students who successfully completed a term had higher scores in perseverance and passion than their colleagues who did not (McCutcheon C, 2014).

Perseverance and its importance in success is well-researched, but what is lesser explored are the factors that contribute to perseverance. This experiment aimed to explore several of these factors. The experiment attempted to discern the relationship between positivity & sensory processing sensitivity and perseverance amongst high school students. This experiment measured perseverance by the time it took test subjects to give up on an impossible anagrams task (higher time, higher perseverance and vice versa).

The Oxford English dictionary defines positivity as “the practice of being or tendency to be positive or optimistic in attitude”. Studies have shown that it buffers resilience in the face of a crisis (Fredrickson BL, 2003). But in everyday situations, does positivity correlate with higher resilience and perseverance? It certainly has a host of other benefits, including health benefits (Tugade M, Fredrickson B & Barrett FL, 2004) and increases in life satisfaction (Cohn MA, Fredrickson BL, Brown SL, Mikels JA & Conway AM, 2009). (In this experiment, positivity was not thought of as a trait, but came from outside sources and prompts. Test subjects were given different instructions, using negative and positive language.)

Sensory processing sensitivity, or SPS is an innate personality trait found in 15-20% of the population. People with SPS (called highly sensitive people, or HSPs) are more aware of subtleties in their environment and are more easily overwhelmed than people without SPS. Many studies have linked SPS to higher levels of depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders (Bakker K, Moulding R, 2015). Some HSPs report difficulty in developing resilience and perseverance because of their tendency to become overly emotional and easily overwhelmed. Others report that their SPS has helped them develop resilience.

It was hypothesised that test subjects that had SPS would have lower perseverance than test subjects who did not have SPS, and that test subjects who were given prompts using positive language would have higher perseverance than test subjects who weren’t.