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Despite much research into cognitive ability as a selection tool and a separate large literature on the causes of voluntary turnover, little theoretical or empirical work connects the two. We propose that voluntary turnover is also a potentially key outcome of cognitive ability. Incorporating ideas from the person-environment fit literature and those regarding push and pull influences on turnover, we posit a theoretical connection between cognitive ability and voluntary turnover that addresses both why and how voluntary turnover is related to cognitive ability. Integrating data from 3 different sources, our empirical analyses support the theoretical perspective that the relationship between cognitive ability and voluntary turnover depends on the cognitive demands of the job. When the cognitive demands of a job are high, our findings support the hypothesized curvilinear relationship between cognitive ability and voluntary turnover, such that employees of higher and lower cognitive ability are more likely than medium cognitive ability employees to leave voluntarily. With regard to jobs with low cognitive demands, our data are more consistent with a negative linear relationship between cognitive ability and voluntary turnover, such that higher cognitive ability employees are less likely to leave voluntarily. We also examine the role of job satisfaction, finding that job satisfaction is more strongly linked to voluntary turnover in jobs with high cognitive demands. (c) 2010 APA, all rights reserved.


Mark A Maltarich, Anthony J Nyberg, Greg Reilly. A conceptual and empirical analysis of the cognitive ability-voluntary turnover relationship. The Journal of applied psychology. 2010 Nov;95(6):1058-70

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PMID: 20718520

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