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Alfie Kohn’s critique on praise (which differs from Carol Dweck’s)

Alfie Kohn, author of Punished by Rewards, has written an article, Criticizing (common criticisms of) praise, in which he says that his critique on praise differs from Carol Dweck’s critique on praise. Kohn views praise as a way of doing something to people instead of working with them and he prefers the latter. Apart from this value judgement, he says, praise has the negative effect of undermining people’s intrinsic motivation for the task they are praised for. Furthermore, praise, according to Kohn, signals conditional acceptance (while children need unconditional care). Kohn points out what he is not arguing for: 1) to praise less frequently, 2) to praise more meaningful, 3) to praise for effort rather than ability, 4) to give kids only praise when they deserve it. Click here to read more »

Index of Autonomous Functioning (IAF)

IAF relationshipsThe index of autonomous functioning: Development of a scale of human autonomy

N. Weinstein et al. (2012)


A growing interest in the functional importance of dispositional autonomy led to the development and validation of the Index of Autonomous Functioning (IAF) across seven studies. The IAF provides a measure of trait autonomy based on three theoretically derived subscales assessing authorship/self-congruence, interest-taking, and low susceptibility to control (see example items below). Results showed consistency within and across subscales, and appropriate placement within a nomological network of constructs. Diary studies demonstrated IAF relations with higher well-being, greater daily satisfaction of basic psychological needs, and more autonomous engagement in daily activities. Using an experimental approach, the IAF was shown to predict more positive interactions among dyads. The studies provided a systematic development and validation of a measure of autonomy that is brief and reliable.  Click here to read more »


In a new paper, Netta Weinstein, Andrew Przybylski, and Richard Ryan address the topic of  the integrative process. With this they mean the process of coordinating and increasing the congruence between their behaviors and cognitions, and of how to integrate new experiences within their existing web of self-knowledge. The authors say that this integrative process consists of three interconnected subprocesses—namely, awareness, ownership/autonomy, and nondefensiveness and they summarize evidence linking these facets of integration to energy, wellness, and relational benefits.


Mindful awareness is the degree to which people have open access to their own emotions, motives, and values. Personal ownership, or autonomy,is the degree to which one takes responsibility for one’s emotions, decisions, and thoughts. Non-defensiveness is the degree to which one turns toward and tries to solve challenging situations. The authors suggest that both autonomy supportive contexts and mindful awareness (which is a learnable skill) are beneficial for the process of integration. Click here to read more »

We can never know what someone’s potential is

glass-ceilingPeople differ in the degree to which they believe that abilities can be developed. Thinking that abilities can hardly be developed is called a fixed mindset; thinking that they can be developed through effort is called a growth mindset. Although there are many indications for the validity ad the advantages of a growth mindset it is also the case that people with a fixed mindset see many indications that their way of thinking is valid. If you do not believe that abilities can be developed you will not put in much effort to develop them. If you do’t put in much effort, they won’t develop much. Ergo: your mindset is confirmed. Click here to read more »

Professional helpers’ growth mindset, work engagement and self-reported performance

Professional helpers’ growth mindset, work engagement and self-reported performance
Work engagement is a worker’s state of mind which has benefits for individuals and the organization as a whole. Heslin (2010) suggested that people’s work engagement can be enhanced by inducing a growth mindset. The present study examined on a sample of professional helpers whether the extent to which they have a growth mindset about their clients (GMC) and about professional helpers (GMP) predicted their work engagement (WE) and their (self-rated) performance (PERF). Structural equation modeling showed that a GMC predicted WE and that both GMP and WE predicted PERF.

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 »

Is the world becoming a better place?

Is progress in the world possible? Is it possible to close the divide between the developed world and the so-called developing world? Will it be possible for all countries in Africa to join the developed world in the near future? Will the world become more equal in prosperity? Is this process already happening? Have recent years shown measurable progress? Watch this video by Hans Rosling:



Did you see how the decline of child mortality and the decline of the number of babies per woman go hand in hand? Not only is this is this of great humanitarian and moral importance. It also has great practical implications. As women get fewer children which have higher chances to survive this will enable both the path to the empowerment of women and the economic development.

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 »

This just ruthless desire to win

Lance Armstrong Oprah Winfrey


Oprah: “What was for you the flaw or flaws that made you willing to risk it all?”

Lance Armstrong: “I think this just ruthless desire to win. Win at all cost, truly.”


While Lance Armstrong confessed that he had been lying all along about his use of doping I remembered a book I read in 2001 by Alfie Kohn No Contest: The Case Against Competition. In that book Kohn describes how we tend to turn many things into a contest (at work, at school, at play, at home) assuming that working toward a goal and setting standards for ourselves can only take place if we compete against others. By perceiving tasks or play as a contest we often define the situation to be one of MEGA: mutually exclusive goal attainment. This means: my success depends on your failure. Click here to read more »

Scaling small psychological interventions

Via Anne Murphy Paul’s great website I found this article which says that research based small psychological interventions with large and long term impact can be scaled if done in a context appropriate manner.


Social-Psychological Interventions in Education: They’re Not Magic
by David S. Yeager and Gregory M. Walton

Abstract: Recent randomized experiments have found that seemingly “small” social-psychological interventions in education—that is, brief exercises that target students’ thoughts, feelings, and beliefs in and about school—can lead to large gains in student achievement and sharply reduce achievement gaps even months and years later. These interventions do not teach students academic content but instead target students’ psychology, such as their beliefs that they have the potential to improve their intelligence or that they belong and are valued in school. When social-psychological interventions have lasting effects, it can seem surprising and even “magical,” leading people either to think of them as quick fixes to complicated problems or to consider them unworthy of serious consideration. The present article discourages both responses. It reviews the theoretical basis of several prominent social-psychological interventions and emphasizes that they have lasting effects because they target students’ subjective experiences in school, because they use persuasive yet stealthy methods for conveying psychological ideas, and because they tap into recursive processes present in educational environments. By understanding psychological interventions as powerful but context-dependent tools, educational researchers will be better equipped to take them to scale. This review concludes by discussing challenges to scaling psychological interventions and how these challenges may be overcome.


A pdf draft version of this article is here.

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