Self-theories and progress
In 1998, economist Robert Frank wrote: “Our beliefs about human nature help shape human nature itself.” This is true. A hot topic in social psychology is the topic of self-theories. Carol Dweck (photo), pioneer in this line of research, explains that self-theories are people’s beliefs about the fixedness or malleabillity of their personal characteristics, such as their intelligence (Dweck & Molden, 2005).
Agreement with statements like: “Your intelligence is something you cannot really change” reflects a so-called entitiy theorie, also called a fixed mindset. Agreement with statements like “No matter who you are, you can always become more intelligent” reflects a so-called incremental theory or a growth mindset. Lots of research has been done into self-theories. This article summarizes some of the main research conclusions: Developing a Growth Mindset – How individuals and organizations benefit from it.
Briefly it can be said that: 1) a growth mindset has many benefits over a fixed minset: more learning, more openness, more achievement, 2) a growth mindset can be learned rather easily, 3) as parents, teachers, and managers we can influeces people’s self theories importantly by the way we communicate with them and by they we give them feedback and compliments. One of the important findings is that complimenting people on personal characteristics (“wow, you must be very smart!”) is likely to induce a fixed mindset while complimenting people on effort and process (“wow, you must have worked really hard!”) is likely to induce a growth mindset.
In many contexts progress begins with the belief that progress is possible and worthwhile. This is also the case with respect to our own development. Believing we can improve ourselves is largely a prerequisite for improving ourselves.