People who think their intelligence is capable of growing are not frightened of difficult tasks, a new study finds.
As a result they know their own abilities and may be better at avoiding bad decisions.
In contrast, people who think intelligence is fixed and unchangeable have a tendency to avoid difficult tasks.
This help them maintain an overconfident attitude about their own abilities.
Dr Joyce Ehrlinger, the study’s first author, said:
“A little bit of overconfidence can be helpful, but larger amounts of overconfidence can lead people to make bad decisions and to miss out on opportunities to learn.”
In the research, people who had a fixed mindset about intelligence were more overconfident when given a multiple-choice test.
Dr Ehrlinger said:
“By focusing on aspects of the task that were easy and spending as little time as possible on more difficult parts of the task, fixed theorists felt as if they had performed very well relative to their peers.
In contrast, growth theorists weren’t threatened by challenging parts of the task and didn’t feel the need to bask in the glow of the parts that were easy.
This more balanced way of completing the task left growth theorists with a better understanding of how well they did.”
Another part of the research forced those with fixed notions about intelligence to really engage with the more difficult parts of the test.
That way they got a more realistic assessment of their abilities.
Dr Ehrlinger said:
“We know that students’ beliefs about intelligence are very consequential in the classroom and that interventions that teach students a growth mindset lead to improvements in their grades.
We also know that being overconfident keeps people from learning.
You have to understand and acknowledge what you don’t yet know in order to truly learn.
This research suggests that part of why growth mindsets improve learning might be because they lead people to better understand what they do and what they do not know.
Education is perhaps the best way to advance opportunity, and emerging evidence suggests that the benefits of teaching a growth mindset for improving grades are particularly strong for students in stigmatized groups based on race or gender.”
The study was published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology (Ehrlinger et al., 2016).
Image credit: Saad Faruque