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Category Archive: mindset

Growth mindset and accepting responsibility

People with a growth mindset find it easier to accept responsibility for their transgressions.

Who Accepts Responsibility for Their Transgressions?

Schumann & Dweck (2014)

Abstract: After committing an offense, transgressors can optimize their chances of reconciling with the victim by accepting responsibility. However, transgressors may be motivated to avoid admitting fault because it can feel threatening to accept blame for harmful behavior. Who, then, is likely to accept responsibility for a transgression? We examined how implicit theories of personality—whether people see personality as malleable (incremental theory) or fixed (entity theory)—influence transgressors’ likelihood of accepting responsibility. We argue that incremental theorists may feel less threatened by accepting responsibility because they are more likely to view the situation as an opportunity for them to grow as a person and develop their relationship with the victim. We found support for our predictions across four studies using a combination of real-world and hypothetical offenses, and correlational and experimental methods. These studies therefore identify an important individual difference factor that can lead to more effective responses from transgressors.

Positive stereotypes can hinder performance too

Positive stereotypesWho is good at this game? Linking an activity to a social category undermines children’s achievement

A. Cimpian, Y. Mu Y, & L.C. Erickson (2014)


Abstract: Children’s achievement-related theories have a profound impact on their academic success. Children who adopt entity theories believe that their ability to perform a task is dictated by the amount of natural talent they possess for that task–a belief that has well-documented adverse consequences for their achievement (e.g., lowered persistence, impaired performance). It is thus important to understand what leads children to adopt entity theories. In the experiments reported here, we hypothesized that the mere act of linking success at an unfamiliar, challenging activity to a social group gives rise to entity beliefs that are so powerful as to interfere with children’s ability to perform the activity. Two experiments showed that, as predicted, the performance of 4- to 7-year-olds (N = 192) was impaired by exposure to information that associated success in the task at hand with membership in a certain social group (e.g., “boys are good at this game”), regardless of whether the children themselves belonged to that group.


Also read: Even positive stereotypes can hinder performance

Messages of encouragement that convey a growth mindset (Kahn Academy study)

encouraging a growth mindsetJascha Sohl-Dickstein, Dave Paunesku, Benjamin Haley, and Joseph Williams (see Paunesku, 2013 and this summary) conducted a study in collaboration with Kahn Academy to investigate the effects of brief messages of encouragement on learning. In an experiment with 265,082 students learning math on the Khan Academy website, brief messages encouraging a growth mindset were presented above math problems such as: “Remember, the more you practice the smarter you become!” and “If you make a mistake, it’s an opportunity to get smarter!” The study also had three control conditions. In one control condition standard encouragement messages were presented such as standard encouragement, e.g., “Some of these problems are hard. Just do your best”. In another control condition science statements, e.g., “Did you know: An elephant brains weighs 7/2 as much as a human brain.” Finally, there was a no-header control condition. Click here to read more »

Brief online mindset intervention improves students’ grades

Carefully designed mindset interventions in schools have been shown to show improvements in student’s grades over weeks or month (Blackwell et al., 2007; Good et al. 2007). Now several brief and low cost mindset interventions have also shown positive effects. Here is one example. In an experiment, conducted by Dave Paunesku, Carissa Romero, David Yeager, Greg Walton, and Carol Dweck (Paunesku, 2013) with 1,594 high school students, a 30-minute online mindset intervention in the form of a simple slide show presentation, increased the rate at which underperforming students (those in the bottom 33% by pre-study grade point average) earned satisfactory grades (As, Bs, Cs) in core academic classes. Over an entire semester, treated students earned satisfactory grades at a 14% higher rate relative to control group students (see table below). Click here to read more »

Seeing willpower as an abundant resource (rather than a highly limited resource) works

willpower theoryImplicit Theories About Willpower Predict Self-Regulation and Grades in Everyday Life
Job, Walton, Bernecker, and Dweck (in press)

Abstract: Laboratory research shows that when people believe that willpower is an abundant (rather than highly limited) resource they exhibit better self-control after demanding tasks. However, some have questioned whether this “nonlimited” theory leads to squandering of resources and worse outcomes in everyday life when demands on self-regulation are high. To examine this, we conducted a longitudinal study, assessing students’ theories about willpower and tracking their self-regulation and their academic performance. As hypothesized, a “nonlimited” theory predicted better self-regulation (better time management and less procrastination, unhealthy eating, and impulsive spending) for students who faced high self-regulatory demands. Moreover, among students taking a heavy course load, those with a nonlimited theory earned higher grades, which was mediated by less procrastination. These findings contradict the idea that a limited theory helps people allocate their resources more effectively; instead, it is people with the nonlimited theory who self-regulate well in the face of high demands.

If we want to get real good at something we have to work real hard

zwoegenA few days ago I spoke to a manager who told me that she had had a conversation with a subordinate in which she had communicated some clear expectations she had of him. She told me that she had found it quite hard to prepare for the conversation. In this conversation she had used our technique of progress-focused directing. With this approach you formulate very specifically what you expect of the subordinate (this is called your expectation) and you give a clear reason for your expectation (this is called the rationale). This manager told me that, during her preparation, she had found it hard to formulate the rationale. She said she had made it quite difficult for herself and that she made her rationale very complex at first. Only at the end of her preparation she had managed to formulate her rationale in a brief and simple way. When she told me this, I asked her whether the conversation had led to the desired result. She said it had and added: “But I wonder why I make things so hard and difficult during my preparation.” Click here to read more »

The belief that you can change your emotions is good for you

Beliefs About Emotion: Links to Emotion Regulation, Well-Being, and Psychological Distress

Krista De Castella et al. (2013)


Abstract: People differ in their implicit beliefs about emotions. Some believe emotions are fixed (entity theorists), whereas others believe that everyone can learn to change their emotions (incremental theorists). We extend the prior literature by demonstrating (a) entity beliefs are associated with lower well-being and increased psychological distress, (b) people’s beliefs about their own emotions explain greater unique variance than their beliefs about emotions in general, and (3) implicit beliefs are linked with well-being/distress via cognitive reappraisal. These results suggest people’s implicit beliefs—particularly about their own emotions—may predispose them toward emotion regulation strategies that have important consequences for psychological health.


Full article

Misconception 10: the concept of mindset is not relevant for people with an intellectual disability

IMG_5701The title of this post may be premature. I am not aware of any research into the question how mindset is relevant for people with an intellectual disability. To be honest, I think none has been done.

But I suspect that mindset is actually relevant for people with an intellectual disability. Some years ago, I knew a severely mentally disabled man who was approximately 50 years old. I have only seen him three times at consecutive birthdays. The first time I noticed that, mentally, he seemed to function at the level of a four to five year old (which was the age of my children then). Click here to read more »

Misconception 9: the theory of mindset is only useful for individuals

team-150x150It is clear that the theory of mindset is very useful for individuals, both for children and adults. Believing that your traits and capabilities can be developed has many advantages (see for example this interview). But it would be wrong to think that a growth mindset is only relevant for individual functioning. It is also relevant for families, teams, departments, organizations, and societies. I say this for two reasons.
The first reason the growth mindset is relevant for groups is because the development of a growth mindset depends to an important degree on how people in groups interact with each other. For example, the way people give feedback to each other influences mindsets. Giving trait praise (“You are very smart”) diminishes a growth mindset while giving effort compliments (“You have tried really hard”) enhances a growth mindset. There are other things which influences mindsets too, such as saying that it is normal to put in effort, that making mistakes is inevitable, and that persistence is important for achieving success. Click here to read more »

Misconception 8: the concept of the growth mindset puts too much pressure on children

interest-150x150Sometimes people wonder whether it isn’t better to have a fixed mindset now and then. When I ask what they mean, it usually turns out that they have the impression that having a growth mindset means that that you can never be satisfied and that you always feel the pressure to be engaged in learning and improvement. Someone said: “Why should kids always have to learn? Just let them be kids!” Such remarks betray a misunderstanding of what a growth mindset means. A growth mindset means that you believe that development is possible, not that you are constantly feeling a pressure to learn.  Click here to read more »

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