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Category Archive: self-theories

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

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

A White Paper on The Importance of Academic Mindsets

With permission of David Scott Yeager I am posting here the executive summary of a white paper which was prepared for the White House meeting on Excellence in Education: The Importance of Academic Mindsets. Please note that part of the data on this latest research are still unpublished and should not be quoted or cited without permission.


How Can We Instill Productive Mindsets at Scale?

A Review of the Evidence and an Initial R&D Agenda


David S. Yeager, Dave Paunesku, Gregory M. Walton, & Carol S. Dweck


Executive Summary
Research has increasingly shown that there is more to student success than cognitive ability, curriculum and instruction. Students’ mindsets—their beliefs about themselves and the school setting—can powerfully affect whether students learn and grow in school. For example, when students have a fixed mindset, they believe that their intelligence is something that is finite and unchangeable. This makes them doubt their intelligence when they experience difficulty and it undermines resilience and learning. However, when students have more of a growth mindset, they believe that intelligence can be developed. In this mindset, students respond more resiliently to challenges and show greater learning and achievement in the face of difficulty. Randomized experimental studies find that even brief interventions that convey a growth mindset can have important, lasting effects on student learning and performance. For instance:  Click here to read more »

A growth mindset makes people focus more on the desired future

Implicit theories and motivational focus: Desired future versus present reality
A. Timur Sevincer, Lena Kluge, Gabriele Oettingen (2013)


Abstract: People’s beliefs concerning their abilities differ. Incremental theorists believe their abilities (e.g., intelligence) are malleable; entity theorists believe their abilities are fixed (Dweck in Mindset: the new psychology of success. Random House, New York, 2007). On the basis that incremental theorists should emphasize improving their abilities for the future, whereas entity theorists should emphasize demonstrating their abilities in the present reality, we predicted that, when thinking about their wishes, compared to entity theorists, incremental theorists focus more toward the desired future than the present reality. We assessed participants’ motivational focus using a paradigm that differentiated how much they chose to imagine the desired future versus the present reality regarding an important wish (Kappes et al. in Emotion 11: 1206–1222, 2011). We found the predicted effect by manipulating (Study 1) and measuring implicit theories (Study 2), in the academic (Study 1) and in the sport domain (Study 2).

3 Questions and answers about the growth mindset

mindsetxYesterday, I attend a congress presentation which included a section about the advantages of a growth mindset. After the presentation there was room for a few questions from the audience. The following questions were asked: 1) Can you change people’s mindset?,  2) What proportion of the people have a fixed mindset and what proportion have a growth mindset?, 3) Is it really necessary that everybody has a growth mindset? Wouldn’t it be better to have a combination of people with a fixed mindset and people with a growth mindset in your team?


These are questions I have heard before and which I think are interesting. The presenter gave some good answers but I have some additional answers I’d like to share here. Click here to read more »

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.

Influencing Mindsets Through Questions

Influencing People’s Beliefs About the Malleability of Personal Characteristics Through a Sequence of Four Loaded Multiple-Choice Questions

Coert Visser, 2013


The degree to which people have a growth mindset can have important beneficial consequences for their behavior, performance, and development. A growth mindset can be induced by giving people effort compliments and by training them through brief workshops. This study addresses the question whether specific questions may also be used as a tool to induce a growth mindset. Research has shown that questions loaded with certain implicit presuppositions can cause people to think and act congruently with those presuppositions. A survey containing a sequence of four multiple choice questions did indeed affect people’s mindset. Version 1 of the survey started with four multiple choice questions which implicitly suggest a growth mindset. Version 2 started with four multiple choice questions which subtly implied a fixed mindset. Version 3 contained no loaded questions. Implications are discussed and suggestions for further research are given. > Read ful article

Growth mindset affects how managers act and how they are perceived by employees

Having and cultivating a growth mindset is associated with many benefits (read more). While most research into growth mindsets is done with children and in educational settings some researchers have studied the growth mindset in organizational settings. Here are two examples:


heslin and vandewalle 2008Managers’ Implicit Assumptions About Personnel
Peter A. Heslin and Don VandeWalle (2008) Click here to read more »

The term progress-focused

In recent years, we have started to use, along with the term solution-focused, the term progress-focused to describe how we work. We have become quite accustomed to this label and think that it does justice to the dynamic character of the solution-focused approach. The solution-focused approach has always been about making stepwise progress in the direction of the desired situation. The term progress-focused also does justice to a few of our own innovations and to several very inspiring influences by people which we have integrated into our approach. Some examples of such people are Carol Dweck, Anders Ericsson, Teresa Amabile, Icek Ajzen, Barbra Fredrickson, Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, and others.


Since we started to use the term progress-focused we have noticed that many people find the term clear and attractive. To people who are not yet familiar with the core of our approach we sometimes explain it by mentioning the following four steps:


  1. In what would you like to make progress?
  2. What does that progress look like?
  3. What progress have you already made?
  4. What small step forward could you now take?

Growth mindset associated with various positive outcomes (competence, relatedness, learning, vitality, adjustment)

As reader of this blog you probably know about the work of Carol Dweck and her colleagues into growth mindsets and fixed mindsets. If not you may be interested to read an introduction (see for instance this brief post: Self-theories and progress). Whether one has a growth mindset or a fixed mindset has many implications. In general, a growth mindset stimulates, taking on challenges, welcoming feedback, putting in effort, persisting, seeking cooperation, and focusing on improvement. A fixed mindset generally associated with things such as being defensive, avoid difficult challenges, being competitive, giving up when it gets hard, less investment in own development and development of other people. Furthermore, there are two lesser known disadvantages of fixed mindset: it is related to depression and it makes one judge too quickly.


I suspected that there were even more benefits of growth mindsets and disadvantages of fixed mindset. I was especially curious how mindset related to basic needs and thriving. In order to explore that and hopefully learn something I administered a small scale survey exploring the relations between one’s mindset and several other variables. 70 People filled in that survey. For a description of the survey and the results see this post: A growth mindset is associated with effort and thriving. Here is an  overview of the correlations I found: Click here to read more »

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