Stanford professor of psychology Carol Dweck delivered a lecture Thursday addressing the vital interconnection between an individual’s mindset in social interactions and academic achievement.
In her lecture, called “Mindsets: Helping Students Fulfill Their Potential,” Dweck discussed her research on self-concepts and perceived intelligence as well as the relationship between genetics and the environment. Thursday’s lecture was part of an ongoing lecture series presented by the SAGE Center for the Study of the Mind.
According to Dweck, contrary to popular belief, psychological traits can be influenced experience and are not necessarily inherent.
“To me, a hallmark of human nature is how much is not built-in,” Dweck said. “In fact, maybe what is built-in is the capacity to learn and grow according to the world we find ourselves in.”
Dweck said determining the relative influences of genetics or the environment on individual psychology is a central question in her research on psychological functioning.
“It matters whether people believe their qualities are built-in and fixed by nature or whether they believe their qualities can be developed through nurture through their own efforts,” Dweck said. “It matters across many different domains of functioning.”
To support her statement, Dweck said the findings of a study her team performed on adolescents, which measured how their mindsets affected their academic performance, consisted of measuring whether students entering the seventh grade thought their intelligence was something fixed or something that could be developed.
According to Dweck, results showed students entering with similar past intelligence levels received varying grades, showing that intelligence can be developed with the right student mindset.
Another study Dweck conducted looked at the relationship or lack thereof between income and mindset of 168,000 tenth graders in Chile.
“At every level of family income, the mindset made a difference,” Dweck said. “Students with fixed mindsets showing the lowest [test scores] and those with growth mindsets the highest. Mindsets had as much predictive value as any economic indicator.”
According to Dweck, another study conducted involved two groups of students all with declining grades put through varying study methods and mentalities.
“The control group got eight sessions of great study skills, skills the teachers said were really important,” Dweck said. “The other group got eight lessons of study skills with a growth mindset.”
The students with better mindsets showed improvement in their grades, whereas students receiving better resources but a mindset of fixed intelligence continued to have falling grades, according to Dweck.
Dweck said she also explored the impact of different kinds of praise upon children’s test performance and that praising improvement led to more progress as opposed to praising intellect.
“We had a program where we administered different kinds of praise in an experimental situation, finding that praising intelligence backfired. It put kids into a fixed mindset and made them vulnerable,” Dweck said “whereas praising process and effort led to more of a growth mindset and resilience in the face of obstacles.”