Mere Potential Can Be More Important Than Achievement

Zakary Tormala: Mere Potential Can Be More Important Than Achievement

In a series of experiments set in different contexts, we found that high potential can be more appealing than equally high achievement. Our studies uncovered this in situations ranging from basketball player evaluations to hiring decisions, to salary offers, to grad school admissions recommendations. We also saw it in perceptions of artistic talent and in people’s intentions to try a restaurant. In general, potential seems to engender greater interest than achievement.

This is very counter-intuitive on a rational level.