Dweck in SciAm

by F.

Carol Dweck’s ideas need to be discussed more widely, so hurrah that she has a piece in SciAm discussing how to overcome the “entity theory” of achievement ( = success is a function of some special property that you either have or you don’t).


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 effort rather than on intelligence or talent, produces high achievers in school and in life.

Parents and teachers can engender a growth mind-set in children by praising them for their effort or persistence (rather than for their intelligence), by telling success stories that emphasize hard work and love of learning, and by teaching them about the brain as a learning machine.

When I was growing up, the entity theory was the default, hence I have a bit of an axe to grind against it. I’ve seen it stunt a lot of smart folks. A lot. While the general idea in my family was very much the entity theory (not sure why), my father was very much a “effort is everything” sort of guy, as far as I can remember, which was a lucky break for me.

See this book (which I’ve read and can say is worth reading) and her more popular work (which I haven’t read).

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