Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Mindset and its effects

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I’ve blogged previously about Carol Dweck:

Well, now there’s an interview with her in New Scientist, where she talks about her web site to help middle school students acquire a good mindset. They note:

Carol Dweck earned her PhD in psychology from Yale University in 1972. She joined Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, in 2004, after 15 years at Columbia University in New York. Dweck’s popular book Mindset: The new psychology of success was published in 2006 by Random House. Brainology, her online educational software, is at

A few snippets from the interview:

You say that the key to success in life is to adopt a “growth” mindset as opposed to a “fixed” one. What do you mean by these terms?

People with a fixed mindset believe their basic qualities are carved in stone, so they are concerned about making their abilities look good. Those with a growth mindset believe their basic abilities can be cultivated through dedication and education. They are more concerned with stretching themselves. We’ve shown that a growth mindset orients you towards learning, whereas a fixed mindset makes you wary of challenges. If the learning involves risk of failure, those with a fixed mindset are more likely to pass it up.

Which of your studies most vividly demonstrates the power of these mindsets?

A year ago we showed how, if you know someone’s mindset, you can predict how motivated they will be and the grades they are likely to get when they move to junior high school at the age of 12 or 13, when there is often a decline in grades. After a poor grade on an initial test, the students with fixed mindsets said that they would study less, try not to take that subject again – and consider cheating.

Why might a fixed mindset lead people to cheat?

Effort is seen as negative, and failures mean you lack ability. What’s left? You can withdraw from that field of endeavour, but if you’re required to pursue it, as in school, then maybe you will resort to other means.

Have you looked at how these mindsets operate at the level of brain activity?

We looked at the electrical activity in the brains of college students as they performed a difficult general-knowledge task, which showed whether they were entering a state of heightened vigilance. A second and a half after they typed in their answer to a question, they were told whether they were right or wrong. A second and a half after that, they were told what the right answer was. The students with the chronic fixed mindset entered a state of vigilance while waiting to learn whether they were right or wrong, and then that was that. But the students with the growth mindset entered a further state of vigilance while waiting to learn what the actual answer was. …

In a typical group of children starting school, what proportion is in each mindset?

We find that about a third of pre-school children have a fixed mindset and two-thirds have a growth mindset, except in very high-power environments like child day-care at an elite university’s business school. These kids tend to have more of a fixed mindset. They worry more about mistakes and being disapproved of. Maybe they have more pressure put on them by their parents, or have been told they are brilliant. As children move on after pre-school, we find that more of them move into a fixed mindset, so we get a 50:50 split. In adults, it’s about 50 per cent of each mindset, too.

What is your advice to parents who want to avoid trapping their children in a fixed mindset?

First, teach your child the growth mindset, and then praise effort, strategy and improvement. Do not praise intelligence and talent. This harms them. …

Could more be done to foster growth mindsets in school?

In our study of the transition to junior high, a control group was given extensive training using study aids. The experimental group got those study aids but they also got several workshops in the growth mindset. They were told that every time they stretch themselves, the neurons in their brain form new connections, and over time they get smarter. They were also taught how to put that into practice in their schoolwork. Their grades rebounded, while those of the control group continued to decline.

Your new computer program, Brainology, is based on these workshops. How does it work?

Kids follow two hip teenagers through the program. The students interact with these virtual characters and make study plans for them. But the basic framework is learning about the brain. They’re told they can do things to make their brains work better. In that context they learn the growth mindset. Brainology is an owner’s manual for the brain.

You say you used to have a fixed mindset. Where did that come from?

I was raised in an era when there was tremendous faith that IQ tests measured something inherent. My sixth-grade teacher seated us around the room in order of IQ and assigned every privilege and responsibility on this basis.

How did you change your mindset? …

Written by Leisureguy

26 August 2008 at 9:28 am

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