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Category Archive: interventions

Providing a rationale as a motivational strategy

rationaleProviding a Rationale in an Autonomy-Supportive Way as a Strategy to Motivate Others During an Uninteresting Activity
2002, Johnmarshall Reeve, Hyungshim Jang, Pat Hardre, and Mafumi Omura


Abstract: When motivating others during uninteresting activities, people typically use extrinsic contingencies that promote controlling forms of extrinsic motivation. In contrast, we investigated a motivational strategy that could support another person’s capacity to personally endorse and value the effort he or she put forth during the uninteresting activity. That strategy is the provision of an externally provided rationale when communicated in an autonomy-supportive way. In two studies, we tested and found support for a motivational mediation model, based on selfdetermination theory, in which the presence of such a rationale (vs. its absence) adds to participants’ identification with the task’s personal value which, in turn, explains participants’ subsequent effort. These studies suggest that extrinsically motivated behaviors can become self-determined through the process of identification and that the promotion of this identification experience depends on the presence of a rationale that is communicated in an autonomy-supportive way. Read full article.

Mobilizing unused resources: Using the placebo concept to enhance cognitive performance

Mobilizing unused resources: Using the placebo concept to enhance cognitive performance
Ulrich W. Wegera & Stephen Loughnan


Abstract: People have significant psychological resources to improve their well-being and performance, but these resources often go unused and could be better harnessed. In the medical domain, it is well established that these resources can be mobilized under certain conditions, for example in the context of the placebo effect. Here we explored whether the placebo principle can be used to enhance cognitive performance. To do so, we employed a modified placebo induction—a bogus priming method that we told participants would unconsciously enhance their knowledge and that they should hence trust their skills in an upcoming knowledge test. Participant performance was indeed enhanced, compared to a group that did not think the priming process would improve their knowledge. The study documents the relevance of the placebo effect outside the medical and therapeutic setting.

Person Praise Backfires in Children With Low Self-Esteem

person praise and self-esteemOn Feeding Those Hungry for Praise: Person Praise Backfires in Children With Low Self-Esteem
By Eddie Brummelman, Sander Thomaes, Geertjan Overbeek, Bram Orobio de Castro, Marcel A. van den Hout, & Brad J. Bushman


Abstract: Child-rearing experts have long believed that praise is an effective means to help children with low self-esteem feel better about themselves. But should one praise these children for who they are, or for how they behave? Study 1 (N=357) showed that adults are inclined to give children with low self-esteem more person praise (i.e., praise for personal qualities) but less process praise (i.e., praise for behavior) than they give children with high self-esteem. This inclination may backfire, however. Study 2 (N=313; Mage= 10.4 years) showed that person praise, but not process praise, predisposes children, especially those with low self-esteem, to feel ashamed following failure. Consistent with attribution theory, person praise seems to make children attribute failure to the self. Together, these findings suggest that adults, by giving person praise, may foster in children with low self-esteem the very emotional vulnerability they are trying to prevent.


Read full article.

Barbara Arrowsmith Young

Recently I spoke to a teacher working at a primary school. She told me that, at her school, for dyslectic children a less strict norm was used. She told that she did not think this was a good idea because now those children might get the impression that they were actually reasonably good at reading, while this was not the case. She wondered if it wouldn’t be better to put in extra effort to somehow help these kids get better at reading. I told her that I agreed with her that lowering the norm probably wasn’t a smart strategy. I also told her briefly about recent developments in neuroscience and mentioned the work by Barbara Arrowsmith Young, founder of The Arrowsmith School and author of the book The Woman Who Changed Her Brain. She is a very special woman who has done path breaking work into training children with learning disabilities.  Click here to read more »

Paul Bach-y-Rita

It’s not so long ago that scientists and laypeople thought that the malleability of the brain was over once adulthood was reached. Santiago Ramón y Cajal, for example, wrote in 1913 that by adulthood nerve paths were fixed, ended and immutable. He said that nerve cells could die but not be regenerated. This vision implied not only that adults had limited possibilities of learning and changing. It also implied that when someone had had severe brain injury this should be accepted as a sad given. Recovery was not considered possible because brain structure were fixed and brain cells (neurons) could not be regenerated. That was then. And this is now. Much progress has been made.  Click here to read more »

How to Make a Young Child Smarter

How to Make a Young Child Smarter: Evidence From the Database of Raising Intelligence

By John Protzko, Joshua Aronson, and Clancy Blair


Abstract: Can interventions meaningfully increase intelligence? If so, how? The Database of Raising Intelligence is a continuously updated compendium of randomized controlled trials that were designed to increase intelligence. In this article, the authors examine nearly every available intervention involving children from birth to kindergarten, using meta-analytic procedures when more than 3 studies tested similar methods and reviewing interventions when too few were available for meta-analysis. This yielded 4 meta-analyses on the effects of dietary supplementation to pregnant mothers and neonates, early educational interventions, interactive reading, and sending a child to preschool. All 4 meta-analyses yielded significant results: Supplementing infants with long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, enrolling children in early educational interventions, reading to children in an interactive manner, and sending children to preschool all raise the intelligence of young children.


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Advising someone to act in a certain way may make it less likely that you yourself will act in that way

In an upcoming article two researchers from the University of Texas will present evidence for a counterintuitive phenomenon that when people give goal related advice they themselves may become less likely to act according to that advice. The proposed mechanism behind this is that giving advice leads to vicarious goal progress if the advice giver perceives a high likelihood that that the advice will be followed.

Note: Yesterday I uploaded a draft version of their article without realizing that the article was still a work in progress. I will keep you posted about this reasearch and I’ll give more details when the finalized article will be published.

Teresa Amabile: Track Your Small Wins to Motivate Big Accomplishments

Benefits of autonomy support

Distinguishing Autonomous and Directive Forms of Goal Support: Their Effects on Goal Progress, Relationship Quality, and Subjective Well-Being


by Richard Koestner, Theodore A. Powers, Noémie Carbonneau, Marina Milyavskaya, Sook Ning Chua


Abstract: Three studies examined the relations of autonomy support and directive support to goal progress over 3 months. Autonomy support was defined in terms of empathic perspective-taking, whereas directive support was defined in terms of the provision of positive guidance. Results from Study 1 revealed that autonomy support between romantic partners was significantly positively related to goal progress over 3 months, and that the beneficial effect of autonomy support was mediated by enhanced autonomous goal motivation. Study 2 involved female friend dyads and extended the goal progress results to include both self-reports and reports by peers. Study 3 showed that autonomy support similarly promoted progress at vicarious goals. Across three studies, autonomy support was also significantly associated with improved relationship quality and subjective well-being. Directive support was marginally associated with better goal progress across the three studies and unrelated to relationship quality or well-being.

Taming the beast (case)

I got this interesting comment from Niklas Tiger:


I have been reading your blog for a while and I have really enjoyed it a lot. Your way of making SF understandable is brilliant! I am in the process of implementing SF skills into my organization, an IT company in northern Sweden with about 30 employees. We have been facing a problem that has been growing slowly over the years, that we have tried to address a number of times (but have never succeded in “taming the beast”). It’s an extremly complex IT-releated challenge that involves tons of different technology, processes and people. It also involves almost every aspect of our professional skills and knowledge and almost every employee in the company. We had recently come to the point where it is was so huge we didn’t even think it would be possible to EVER find a solutions to this – it would take time, effort, energy, money and a project so huge we couldn’t even imagine who would want to try… Overwhelming is an understatement. Click here to read more »

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