Cognitive Ability and Job Performance: Meta-analytic Evidence for the Validity of Narrow Cognitive Abilities

Christopher D. Nye, Jingjing Ma, Serena Wee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Cognitive ability is one of the best predictors of performance on the job and past research has seemingly converged on the idea that narrow cognitive abilities do not add incremental validity over general mental ability (GMA) for predicting job performance. In the present study, we propose that the reason for the lack of incremental validity in previous research is that the narrow cognitive abilities that have been assessed most frequently are also the abilities that are most highly correlated with GMA. Therefore, we expect that examining a broader range of narrow cognitive abilities that are less highly correlated with GMA will demonstrate incremental validity for narrow abilities. To examine this prediction, we conducted an updated meta-analysis of the relationship between cognitive ability and a multidimensional conceptualization of job performance (task performance, training performance, organizational citizenship behavior, counterproductive work behavior, withdrawal). Using several different methods of analyzing the data, results indicated that the narrow cognitive abilities that are the least highly correlated with GMA added substantial incremental validity for predicting task performance, training performance, and organizational citizenship behavior. These results have important implications for the assessment of cognitive ability and the employee selection process.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1119-1139
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Business and Psychology
Issue number6
Early online date16 Feb 2022
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


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