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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.


Amazing story of Yang Meng Heng

24 Nov

An amazing post at Fluent in Three Months about Yang Meng Heng who is a champion swimmer and speaks several languages. One more thing, Yang Meng Heng lost both arms in an accident at age seven.


The science of self talk

9 Oct

I heard this interesting story on NPR earlier this week:

“So far, evidence that the words you say to yourself could change the way you see yourself is still limited to the self-reports of patients; and the effect on brain physiology hasn’t yet been studied. But Coslett thinks self-talk probably does shape the physiology of perception, given that other sensory perceptions — the intensity of pain, for example, or whether a certain taste is pleasing or foul, or even what we see — can be strongly influenced by opinions, assumptions, cultural biases and blind spots.”

While the evidence is mostly anecdotal, there are studies in the sports psychology  literature suggesting that self talk may have value. Here is a small study of  tennis players:

“Examined the effect of self-talk on performance of 24 junior tennis players (mean age 15.43 yrs) observed during tournament matches. Their observable self-talk, gestures, and match scores were recorded. Players also described their positive, negative, and other thoughts on a postmatch questionnaire. A descriptive analysis of the self-talk and gestures that occurred during competition was generated. It was found that negative self-talk was associated with losing and that players who reported believing in the utility of self-talk won more points than players who did not. These results suggest that self-talk influences competitive sport outcomes.”

Here is another example of this type of research:

“This study examined the effectiveness of different self-talk strategies on increasing performance in different motor tasks. Specifically, four laboratory experiments were conducted to examine the effect of motivational versus instructional self-talk strategies on four different tasks. Included in the experiments were a soccer accuracy test (n=72), a badminton service test (n=48), a sit up test (n=54), and a knee extension task on an isokinetic dynamometer (n=63). Results of the first two experiments indicated that only the participants of the instructional group improved their performance significantly more than the motivational and control groups. Results of the third experiment indicated no significant differences between the three groups, although all groups showed improvements across trials. Results of the fourth experiment showed a significant improvement for both the motivational and instructional groups compared to the control group. It appears that when the task requires fine motor movements, an instructional self-talk strategy is more effective, whereas when the task requires predominantly strength and endurance, both motivational and instructional strategies are effective.”


Motivating people to take the stairs

12 Feb

From The Fun Theory.

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Dance in a year: Advice on how to learn

12 Jul

This video is from the website Dance in a Year. It documents one woman’s progress towards her learning goal.

I believe that adults need challenging learning goals to stay cognitively engaged. You don’t have to be interested in dancing to profit from this website. Anyone who harbors a learning goal will be helped by Karen’s advice. Here are some of her suggestions:





All this accords very well with the psychology of learning. What are you waiting for?

Ignoring Mr. Clown Box

11 Jul


The Mind Report on Bloggingheads has a great discussion between Tamar Gendler and Angela Duckworth that covers both the history of, and the most recent research on, the Stanford marshmallow experiment.

The Stanford marshmallow experiment studied the ability of children to delay gratification; to forgo small immediate rewards in exchange later larger rewards. Here is a CBS news clip that describes the experiment:

Mr. Clown Box was an experimental protocol used by Walter Mischel (the inventor of the marshmallow experiment) to study procrastination. Children were given a repetitive task while a nosy machine (the clown box) tried to distract them. This led to a number of important insights about self control.

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