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Growth mindset: A failure to replicate

10 Jul

Carole Dweck’s work has received a great deal of attention. Essentially she argues that an individual’s beliefs about intelligence is a powerful predictor of scholastic attainment. In a Scientific American article she wrote:

 Many people assume that superior intelligence or ability is a key to success. But more than three decades of research shows that an overemphasis on intellect or talent—and the implication that such traits are innate and fixed—leaves people vulnerable to failure, fearful of challenges and unmotivated to learn.
Teaching people to have a “growth mind-set,” which encourages a focus on “process” rather than on intelligence or talent, produces high achievers in school and in life.

Now a study, published in Personality and Individual Differences, fails to replicate these findings. Here is the abstract:

Implicit theories of intelligence have been proposed to predict a large number of different outcomes in education. The belief that intelligence is malleable (growth mindset) is supposed to lead to better academic achievement and students’ mindset is therefore a potential target for interventions. The present study used a large sample of university applicants (N = 5653) taking a scholastic aptitude test to further examine the relationship between mindset and achievement in the academic domain. We found that results in the test were slightly negatively associated with growth mindset (r = − 0.03). Mindset showed no relationship with the number of test administrations participants signed up for and it did not predict change in the test results. The results show that the strength of the association between academic achievement and mindset might be weaker than previously thought.

Note, however, the limitations reported by the authors:

In sum, we found that mindset had virtually no association with results in a scholastic aptitude test used for university admissions. While the association between mindset and goal achievement was previously shown to be weak (Burnette et al., 2013), our study presents a large amount of new data suggesting that the association may be even weaker than previously thought. Given that recent large scale experiments suggest that learning growth mindset improves academic achievement (Paunesku et al., 2015; Yeager et al., 2016a, b), our study does not invalidate the notion that implicit theories of intelligence might be a promising target for educational interventions. However, it suggests that mindset might not be as useful for predicting future success or that its predictive abilities are at least limited to specific circumstances. Yet, we note that our study has several limitations including possible self selection and range-restriction effects, a short measure of mindset, and a short duration between subsequent administrations of the test. We also did not include measures of hypothesized mediating variables, such as the amount of practice, and the mindset measure was not directly tailored to assess beliefs about the possibility of improvement in the GAP test. Future studies may overcome these limitations and thus better explain differences between results of the present and past studies.


Higher childhood IQ related to a lower risk mortality

3 Jul

The Lothian birth-cohort studies continue to contribute to our understanding of cognitive aging. Here is the latest paper, published in the journal Intelligence. And here are the paper’s highlights;

• 94% of the participants of the Scottish Mental Survey 1947 were traced.
• Higher childhood IQ was related to a lower risk of all-cause mortality by age 79.
• The effect was slightly stronger in women than in men.
• The decline in risk across categories of IQ scores was graded across the full range.
•This is the only study of IQ and mortality in an entire year-of-birth cohort.

Here is Ian Deary’s brief description of the Lothian birth-cohort studies

Do your siblings lower your IQ?

7 Jun

As the number of siblings increases, the fraction of parental resources received by each one declines. Thus, it has been suggested that larger sib size should be associated with lower IQ and lower school performance. A recent paper in the journal Intelligence looked at the evidence. Here is the abstract:

We examine the effects of child sibship size on intelligence, school performance and adult income for a sample of Swedish school children (n = 1326). These children were measured in grade three in 1965 (age 10) and in grades six (age 13) and nine (age 16), and the women and men were later followed up in adulthood at ages 43 and 47, respectively. Using Bayesian varying-intercept modeling we account for differences between school classes in each of our three response variables: IQ-scores, school grades and adult income, and control for background variables such as gender, socioeconomic status, and maternal- and paternal age. Consistent with previous research, we find patterns of decreasing IQ scores for increasing sibship sizes, specifically for an increasing number of older siblings. No relationships between sibship size and children’s school grades are found. We find, however, patterns of decreasing adult income for an increasing number of younger siblings. In addition, considerable amounts of variations in intelligence scores as well as school grades are found between school classes. Some implications of the findings and suggestions for future research are provided.

James Flynn on the Flynn Effect

24 Oct

I showed this video to my doctoral students last week. It’s a nice summary of Flynn’s work. I regard the Flynn Effect as one of the most important discoveries, a greatest mysteries, of scientific psychology.

Special brag point: I am the author of the study he mentions on Ohio school examinations.

Brain training increases grey matter volume

15 Aug

On Friday, I reported on a meta-analysis that presented evidence that working memory brain training does not transfer to other cognitive skills. The most recent issue of Personality and Individual Differences carries a paper titled:  “Gray matter volumetric changes with a challenging adaptive cognitive training program based on the dual n-back task.” The n-back task is the most widely used procedure for working memory training in academic research.

Surprisingly, these results do not, necessarily, contradict each other. As noted in the abstract:

“Changes in the gray matter volume of these clusters were correlated with a) behavioral changes across the training program and b) changes in four psychological factors assessed before and after training (fluid and crystallized intelligence, working memory capacity, and attention control). None of these correlations were statistically significant, and therefore, psychological and biological changes were seen as independent.”

Since there working memory training does improve performance on the trained task, we would expect there to be some kind of measurable physical change in the brain. But this does not mean that the training effects are transferable to other cognitive domains.

Uric acid and personality

2 May

Psychology has many interesting findings that have never been adequately explored. One of them is the link between high IQ and gout. Gout is a form of arthritis caused by a high level of uric acid in the body.

Now a study, published in Personality and Individual Differences reports links between serum uric acid and personality:

“Elevated serum uric acid (SUA) is associated with a variety of medical and psychopathological conditions. This study investigated whether elevated SUA is associated with the Five Factor Model of personality. Participants underwent a health examination at two points of time, T1 (N = 3706) and T2 (N = 2104), about 18 months apart. Ordinary least squares (OLS) regressions were used to examine the concurrent and over-18-month associations between the FFM factors and SUA levels. Extraversion was associated with elevated SUA at T1 and T2. Conscientiousness was associated with decreased SUA at T1. The associations of Extraversion and Conscientiousness with SUA decreased to marginal significance when adjusted for body weight as a possible mediator. Agreeableness was associated with decreased SUA at T1 and T2 and persisted after adjustment for covariates. A secondary analysis conducted to examine whether the FFM could predict individuals having above normal SUA levels, showed a trend similar to that observed for the OLS regressions. The associations found have direct relevance to medical and psychopathological conditions associated with elevated SUA.”


Are our brains getting bigger?

17 Feb

A paper in Learning and Individual Differences:

“Secular increases in brain mass over nearly a century have been noted for both males and females in the UK and Germany. It has been argued that such trends may be associated with the Flynn effect. The IQ gain predicted on the basis of these trends is 0.19 and 0.08 points per decade for UK, and 0.2 and 0.15 points per decade for German males and females respectively, indicating a small contribution to the Fullscale IQ trends in these countries (2.95% of the German decadal gain and 12.73% of the UK gain). There is also a sex difference in the rates of brain mass gain in both countries, favoring males. Temporal correlations between the secular trend in UK brain mass and European Flynn effects on Fullscale IQ, Crystallized, Fluid and Spatial abilities reveal correlations ranging from 0.751 in the case of Fluid ability to 0.761 in the case of Crystallized ability. The brain mass increase may be an imperfect proxy for changes in specific neuroanatomical structures important for IQ gains. Its small contribution to these gains is also consistent with the influence of other contributing factors. Increasing brain mass is predicted by the life history model of the Flynn effect as it suggests increased somatic effort allocation into bioenergetically expensive cortical real estate facilitating the development of specialized cognitive abilities.”


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