Differential associations of neurobehavioral traits and cognitive ability to academic achievement in higher education

Graham Pluck, Patricia Bravo Mancero, Paola Alexandra Ortíz Encalada, Angélica María Urquizo Alcívar, Claudio E. Maldonado Gavilanez, Paola Chacon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Background: People vary between each other on several neurobehavioral traits, which may have implications for understanding academic achievement. Methods: University-level Psychology or Engineering students were assessed for neurobehavioral traits, intelligence, and current psychological distress. Scores were compared with their grade point average (GPA) data. Results: Factors associated with higher GPA differed markedly between groups. For Engineers, intelligence, but not neurobehavioral traits or psychological distress, was a strong correlate of grades. For Psychologists, grades were not correlated with intelligence but they were with the neurobehavioral traits of executive dysfunction, disinhibition, apathy, and positive schizotypy. However, only the latter two were associated independently of psychological distress. Additionally, higher mixed-handedness was associated with higher GPA in the combined sample. Conclusions: Neurological factors (i.e., neurobehavioral traits and intelligence), are differentially associated with university-level grades, depending on the major studied. However, mixed-handedness may prove to be a better general predictor of academic performance across disciplines.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100124
JournalTrends in Neuroscience and Education
StatePublished - Mar 2020


  • Academic attainment
  • Frontal-subcortical circuits
  • Handedness
  • Higher education
  • Personality
  • Schizotypy


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