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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Mindset & Effort (Post #3)

More implications from my reading on mindsets...

Another famous study involved testing students who had all previously performed well in Science classes. As expected, some students performed well on the test and others did not. Students' reactions to their tests were then recorded. Fixed mindset students who did poorly on the test said that they would "Study less in the future." and "Cheat to get a better score." Growth mindset students who did poorly on the test said that they would "study more before the next test" and "pay more attention in class."

For people with fixed mindsets, effort is a strange thing. People with fixed mindsets see their ability/intelligence as a constant, and so effort is usually viewed as denigrating (i.e. "If it doesn't come easily to you, then you're not good at it AND you'll never get much better, because your ability is fixed! So why try?"). Fixed mindset people tend to think that they don't need to put forth effort, because they are "naturally talented". [And they may BE naturally talented, but even talent needs practice to improve; but notice how tricky that word "improve" is, because if I have a fixed mindset, I don't really believe in substantial improvement.]

The other thing not trying offers fixed mindset people is protection: "I could've won that game, if I'd tried [or "really played"] the first half." Dweck tells the amusing story of a fixed mindset person who once said to her, "I could've been Yo-yo-ma." Not trying allows fixed mindset people with a strong belief in their own talent to live under the illusion that they could have been or done almost anything...if they had tried. As ridiculous as it is, their argument is irrefutable, because they never tried, so their statement can't be proven right or wrong, and they can go on with their lives without destroying their self-esteem.

The growth mindset perspective on effort is that it is the necessary component to success. Growth mindset people take the greatest pride in those things which they have put the most effort into. Things that are too easy for them are often considered boring. They thrive on challenges.

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