ArticlePDF Available

Social-Psychological Interventions in Education: They’re Not Magic


Abstract and Figures

Recent randomized experiments have found that seemingly “small” social-psychological interventions in education—that is, brief exercises that target students’ thoughts, feelings, and beliefs in and about school—can lead to large gains in student achievement and sharply reduce achievement gaps even months and years later. These interventions do not teach students academic content but instead target students’ psychology, such as their beliefs that they have the potential to improve their intelligence or that they belong and are valued in school. When social-psychological interventions have lasting effects, it can seem surprising and even “magical,” leading people either to think of them as quick fixes to complicated problems or to consider them unworthy of serious consideration. The present article discourages both responses. It reviews the theoretical basis of several prominent social-psychological interventions and emphasizes that they have lasting effects because they target students’ subjective experiences in school, because they use persuasive yet stealthy methods for conveying psychological ideas, and because they tap into recursive processes present in educational environments. By understanding psychological interventions as powerful but context-dependent tools, educational researchers will be better equipped to take them to scale. This review concludes by discussing challenges to scaling psychological interventions and how these challenges may be overcome.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Review of Educational
The online version of this article can be found at:
DOI: 10.3102/0034654311405999
April 2011
2011 81: 267 originally published online 19REVIEW OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH
David S. Yeager and Gregory M. Walton
Social-Psychological Interventions in Education : They're Not Magic
Published on behalf of
American Educational Research Association
can be found at:Review of Educational ResearchAdditional services and information for Alerts:
at Stanford University Libraries on June 7, 2011http://rer.aera.netDownloaded from
Review of Educational Research
June 2011, Vol. 81, No. 2, pp. 267–301
DOI: 10.3102/0034654311405999
© 2011 AERA.
Social-Psychological Interventions in Education:
They’re Not Magic
David S. Yeager and Gregory M. Walton
Stanford University
Recent randomized experiments have found that seemingly “small” social-
psychological interventions in education—that is, brief exercises that target
students’ thoughts, feelings, and beliefs in and about school—can lead to
large gains in student achievement and sharply reduce achievement gaps
even months and years later. These interventions do not teach students aca-
demic content but instead target students’ psychology, such as their beliefs
that they have the potential to improve their intelligence or that they belong
and are valued in school. When social-psychological interventions have last-
ing effects, it can seem surprising and even “magical,” leading people either
to think of them as quick fixes to complicated problems or to consider them
unworthy of serious consideration. The present article discourages both
responses. It reviews the theoretical basis of several prominent social-psy-
chological interventions and emphasizes that they have lasting effects
because they target students’ subjective experiences in school, because they
use persuasive yet stealthy methods for conveying psychological ideas, and
because they tap into recursive processes present in educational environ-
ments. By understanding psychological interventions as powerful but con-
text-dependent tools, educational researchers will be better equipped to take
them to scale. This review concludes by discussing challenges to scaling psy-
chological interventions and how these challenges may be overcome.
Keywords: social psychology, education policy, implicit theories, stereotype
threat, affirmation, belonging, achievement gaps.
Several years ago a brief intervention was introduced in eight hospitals around
the world in an effort to reduce medical errors. The intervention required surgeons
and nurses to complete a one-page checklist of tasks before beginning a surgery,
such as introducing themselves to one another and correctly timing the application
of antiseptics. An evaluation of this simple intervention found that it reduced surgi-
cal complications by 36% and deaths by 47% (Haynes et al., 2009). Observers and
medical professionals have wondered how this small intervention could have a
large effect, especially when it did not address such clearly important factors as
surgeons’ skills and training. Some have hailed the checklist intervention as “a
classic magic bullet” (Aaronovitch, 2010); others have dismissed it as “[not] Harry
RER405999RER10.3102/0034654311405999Yeager & WaltonSocial-Psychological Inter-
ventions in Education
at Stanford University Libraries on June 7, 2011http://rer.aera.netDownloaded from
Yeager & Walton
Potter’s magic wand” (Szalavitz, 2009). Atul Gawande (2009), creator of the
checklist, argues that this sense of mystery arises because many people assumed
that surgeons were already doing the set of practices included in the checklist.
Hence, the checklist’s effects were not easily understood (Gawande, 2009, p. 159).
With a deeper understanding of why the intervention improved outcomes, he
argues, the medical community would be better able to institutionalize the innova-
tion in standard practice.
Interestingly, something similar is happening in education. In recent years,
several rigorous, randomized field experiments have shown that seemingly
“small” social-psychological interventions—typically brief exercises that do not
teach academic content but instead target students’ thoughts, feelings, and beliefs
in and about school—have had striking effects on educational achievement even
over months and years (see Table 1; for reviews see Garcia & Cohen, in press;
Gehlbach, 2010; Walton & Dweck, 2009; Walton & Spencer, 2009; Wilson,
2006). For example, Blackwell, Trzesniewski, and Dweck (2007) found that
middle school students who attended an eight-session workshop teaching them
that the brain is like a muscle and grows with effort displayed a sharp increase
in math achievement for the rest of the school year, an effect not shown by
students who attended a control workshop that taught them study skills. Walton
and Cohen (2007, 2011) found that a 1-hour session designed to buttress African
American college students’ sense of social belonging in school increased the
GPA of these students over the next 3 years, halving the Black–White achieve-
ment gap over this period. And Cohen, Garcia, Apfel, and Master (2006), found
that a 15- to 20-minute writing exercise in which students reflected on their core
personal values reduced the gap in grades between African American and
European American students by nearly 40% at the end of the semester, an effect
that persisted, with a few additional writing exercises, for 2 years (Cohen,
Garcia, Purdie-Vaugns, Apfel, & Brzustoski, 2009).
Like people who hear about Gawande’s checklist, people who learn about
social-psychological interventions may wonder, how could these effects be real?
How could such interventions work? And how could brief experiences change
students’ outcomes months and years later? These questions are especially press-
ing in a context in which far more expensive and comprehensive interventions in
education often yield disappointing results. For example, of the dozens of random-
ized controlled trials published by the Institute for Education Sciences in recent
years, most have found no effects on student outcomes beyond the initial treatment
period, including a 1-year new-teacher support program (Glazerman et al., 2010),
a yearlong middle school mathematics professional development program (Garet
et al., 2010), and a 2-year supplemental reading courses (James-Burdumy et al.,
2010; Somers et al., 2010), among many other reforms.
In this context, social-psychological interventions can appear magical. As a
consequence, it is tempting either to deliver these interventions as quickly and as
widely as possible or to dismiss them as snake oil—as entertaining sideshows, but
not worthy of serious consideration in education reform.
We argue that neither response is appropriate. Social-psychological interven-
tions hold significant promise for promoting broad and lasting change in educa-
tion, but they are not silver bullets. They are powerful tools rooted in theory, but
they are context dependent and reliant on the nature of the educational environment.
(Text continues on p. 274)
at Stanford University Libraries on June 7, 2011http://rer.aera.netDownloaded from
Summary of Selected Social-Psychological Interventions to Improve Student Achievement
Study Student sample
Summary of randomized
treatment and control
group(s) Summary of results
Effect on
Attributions and
implicit theories of
Wilson and
Linville (1982,
Leading students to
attribute academic
setbacks to unstable
factors rather than
stable factors can
motivate students to
work harder and not
give up after setbacks
in school.
In one laboratory session, os-
tensibly as a part of a survey,
students watched videos of
upper-year students describ-
ing how their grades in college
were low at first but improved
over time. In a control group,
students saw videos of the same
upper-year students talking
about their social and academic
One week later, students in the
treatment condition performed
better on a GRE exam. A year
later, these students had earned
higher college GPAs and were
80% less likely to have dropped
out of college. The treatment
effect on GPA appeared to gain
strength over time.
.27 grade points
one year later
Blackwell, Trzes-
niewski, and Dweck
Black and
Hispanic or
Latino 7th-
grade students
at an urban
Teaching students that
people’s core intel-
ligence is malleable
and grows with effort
and challenge can
motivate students to
work hard and not
give up after setbacks
in school.
In 8 sessions over 8 weeks,
students took part in workshops
on study skills and the function
of the brain and how the brain
can get stronger when a person
works on challenging tasks. Stu-
dents in a control group learned
only study skills.
At the end of the academic year,
the normative decline in math
grades exhibited by students in
the control group was reversed
such that students in the treat-
ment condition had earned sig-
nificantly higher math grades.
.30 grade points
at the end of
the school
at Stanford University Libraries on June 7, 2011http://rer.aera.netDownloaded from
Study Student sample
Summary of randomized
treatment and control
group(s) Summary of results
Effect on
Implicit theories of
intelligence and
stereotype threat
J. Aronson, Fried,
and Good (2002)
Black and
White college
Teaching students that
people’s core intel-
ligence is malleable
will buffer students
from the threat of
being targeted by
negative stereotypes
in school.
In a laboratory session, ostensibly
as a part of a “pen pal” program
to support younger students,
students wrote letters to middle
school students endorsing
the belief that intelligence is
malleable. In a control group,
students wrote “pen pal” letters
advocating a theory of multiple
intelligences. A second control
group did not write letters.
At the end of the academic year,
both Black and White students’
GPAs rose significantly in the
treatment condition as com-
pared to both control groups.
Black students (but not White
students) reported increased
engagement and identification
with school.
.23 grade points
at the end of
the next term
Good, Aronson,
and Inzlicht (2003)
Low- and
income Black
and Hispanic
or Latino 7th-
grade students
at a rural
One treatment group
received an attri-
butional retraining
intervention similar to
Wilson and Linville
(1982). A second treat-
ment group received
an implicit theories of
intelligence interven-
tion. A third treatment
group received both
Students met with college student
mentors twice and exchanged
occasional emails throughout
the school year. Mentors were
taught to endorse the relevant
treatment message. A control
group received an antidrug mes-
sage from mentors.
At the end of the academic year,
in all three treatment groups
girls’ math scores on a state-
wide standardized test rose
relative to the control group,
eliminating the gender differ-
ence in math performance pres-
ent in the control condition. In
addition, both boys’ and girls’
reading scores increased in all
three treatment groups relative
to the control group.
See notea
TABLE 1 (continued)
at Stanford University Libraries on June 7, 2011http://rer.aera.netDownloaded from
Study Student sample
Summary of randomized
treatment and control
group(s) Summary of results
Effect on
Stereotype threat
Cohen, Garcia,
Apfel, and Master
(2006); Cohen, Gar-
cia, Purdie-Vaughns,
Apfel, and Brzus-
toski (2009)
Low- and
income Black
and White
students at
a suburban
Affirming important
values can buffer
people from the
effects of stereotype
In one or several 15- to 20-
minute classroom sessions
beginning at the beginning of
the school year, students wrote
about values that were person-
ally important to them as an
in-class writing exercise. In a
control group, students wrote
about values that were not im-
portant to them but might matter
to someone else.
At the end of the first semester,
the value-affirmation interven-
tion increased Black students’
class grades, reducing the gap
between Black and White
students by 40%. Further,
among initially low-performing
Black students, the treatment
raised GPA in all core academic
classes two years posttreatment.
.30 grade points
among Black
students at
the end of
the first term;
.46 grade
points among
ing Black
students after
two years.
Miyake et al.
Men and
women in a
physics class
Same as above. Same as above. At the end of the 15-week course,
the value-affirmation interven-
tion eliminated a substantial
gender gap in physics grades
and on scores on a nationally
normed physics test that was
present in the control condition.
The effect was strongest for
women who endorsed gender
.33 grade
points among
women at the
end of the
TABLE 1 (continued)
at Stanford University Libraries on June 7, 2011http://rer.aera.netDownloaded from
Study Student sample
Summary of randomized
treatment and control
group(s) Summary of results
Effect on
Walton and Cohen
(2007, 2011)
Black and
White college
Leading students to
attribute worries about
belonging to the dif-
ficulty of the transition
to college rather than
to students’ personal
or racial identity can
buttress ethnic minor-
ity students’ sense of
social belonging in
school and increase
motivation and perfor-
In a 1-hour laboratory session, stu-
dents read the results of a survey
indicating that many students feel
they do not belong in college at
first but that such worries dis-
sipate with time. Students then
wrote an essay and gave a speech
ostensibly for the next year’s
freshmen about how their worries
about belonging had changed
over time in college. In control
groups, students were exposed to
information irrelevant to issues of
Relative to students in
multiple control groups, Black
students in the social-belonging
treatment condition earned
higher GPAs from sophomore
through senior year, reducing
the racial achievement gap by
52%, were more likely to be
in the top 25% of their college
class, and 3 years posttreatment
reported being happier and
.24 grade points
among Black
students from
senior year of
Possible selves
Oyserman, Bybee,
and Terry (2006)
Black and
Hispanic or
Latino 8th-
Leading ethnic minority
students to see that
their academic future
selves are close (and
not far), consistent (not
inconsistent) with their
racial identity, and
attainable even when
facing challenges will
increase students’
In 10 workshop sessions, students
wrote about how their future
selves might be academically
successful, and completed exer-
cises to make those future selves
seem more attainable, to make
challenges seem normal and
expected, and to make academic
success not seem like “acting
White.” A control group took
standard elective classes.
Two years later, students in the
treatment group had higher
GPAs, fewer absences, fewer
nominations for disruptive
behavior, and fewer depressive
symptoms and were 60% less
likely to repeat 8th grade.
.28 grade points
two years
TABLE 1 (continued)
at Stanford University Libraries on June 7, 2011http://rer.aera.netDownloaded from
Study Student sample
Summary of randomized
treatment and control
group(s) Summary of results
Effect on
Hulleman and Har-
ackiewicz (2009)
income, ethni-
cally diverse
Making science classes
personally relevant
will increase interest
in science, engage-
ment with the learn-
ing process, and im-
proved performance
especially among
students who do not
expect to succeed in
Every 3 or 4 weeks starting at
the beginning of the semester
students wrote a brief essay
describing how the material
studied in their high school sci-
ence class that week could be
applied in their lives. Control
students summarized the week’s
science class topic.
At the end of the semester treated
students who expected to
perform poorly in science had
earned higher science grades;
no effects were found among
students with high expectations
for success in science.
.80 grade
points among
with low
for success
in science at
the end of the
a. Good et al.’s (2003) attributional retraining, implicit theories, and combined interventions produced effects on girls’ math test scores of the following magnitudes: Cohen’s
d = 1.13, 1.30, and 1.50, respectively.
b. Miyake et al. (2010) reported grades on a 100-point scale, so these numbers were converted to grade points for inclusion in this table.
TABLE 1 (continued)
at Stanford University Libraries on June 7, 2011http://rer.aera.netDownloaded from
Yeager & Walton
Although we believe that social-psychological interventions can be scaled effectively
to reach larger numbers of students, how to do so is not simply a matter of handing
out a worksheet. Rather, scaling social-psychological interventions raises impor-
tant theoretical, practical, and ethical questions that as yet have not been ade-
quately explored.
To illustrate the effects of social-psychological interventions, take a second
analogy.1 Consider a passenger jet that speeds down a runway and lifts into the air.
It can seem surprising even to an experienced flier how an object that weighs many
tons could fly. This is because the miracle of flight relies on numerous interrelated
forces, some more obvious than others. It is not hard to see that a plane needs an
engine, wings, and a pilot to fly. Similarly, a student needs content to learn, a
teacher to teach, and a place or community to support that learning. These factors
shape the objective school environment and create essential capacities for success.
But less obvious features of airplanes and of education systems are also critical to
their success. One reason planes fly is because their wings are sculpted to create
an aerodynamic force (“lift”) that elevates the plane. It is natural to wonder how a
small change in the shape of a wing could make a heavy object fly. Basic labora-
tory research helps explain the principles of air flow and shows that the shape and
position of wings cause air to flow faster below them than above them, lifting a
plane beyond what might seem possible. In a similar way, hidden yet powerful
psychological forces, also investigated through basic science, can raise student
achievement. An engineer uses theories of fluid dynamics to fine-tune a wing,
which, in the context of other factors, makes a plane fly. Analogously, a social-
psychological perspective uses basic theory and research to identify educationally
important psychological processes and then subtly alters these processes in a com-
plex academic environment to raise performance.
More specifically, social-psychological interventions can seem mysterious for
at least four reasons. First, it is often hard to see the forces on which these interven-
tions operate (see Lewin, 1952; Ross & Nisbett, 1991). We do not see air flowing
over a wing; nor do we directly observe how negative intellectual stereotypes or
beliefs about the nature of intelligence affect students. We may see the power of
these processes only when they are altered. For this reason, below we describe
laboratory experiments that illustrate the causal effect of basic theoretical pro-
cesses relevant to motivation and then review how interventions designed to alter
these processes affect achievement.
Second, psychological interventions seem “small” relative to traditional edu-
cational reforms, and people may assume that large problems require “large”
solutions. How could a brief psychological intervention make headway in the
face of structural problems that contribute enormously to inequality and poor
outcomes in education? To presage later arguments, psychological interventions
do not replace traditional educational reforms but operate within the context of
existing structures to make them more effective. Psychological interventions
change students’ mind-sets to help them take greater advantage of available
learning opportunities.
This analysis draws on a core tenet of social psychology, namely, that every
attitude and behavior exists in a complex field of forces—a “tension system”—in
which some forces promote a behavior whereas other forces restrain that behavior
at Stanford University Libraries on June 7, 2011http://rer.aera.netDownloaded from
Social-Psychological Interventions in Education
(Lewin, 1952; Ross & Nisbett, 1991; Wilson, 2006). One lesson from this analysis
is that the structure of the system determines its potential for change—an interven-
tion that increases students’ motivation to learn or that removes barriers to learning
will improve academic outcomes only when learning opportunities exist in the
educational environment.
Another lesson of this analysis is that there are two routes to behavior change (see
Miller & Prentice, in press). One route is to increase forces that promote a behavior, for
instance by giving students incentives for better grades. But when promoting forces are
adequate—as when, at some level, learning content, teachers, and students' willingness
to learn are present—student success may be held back instead by restraining forces,
such as worries about ability or negative stereotypes. In these cases, less intuitively, one
can remove forces that restrain their learning, allowing students to take greater advan-
tage of learning opportunities. As a consequence, even a seemingly small intervention
but one that removes a critical barrier to learning can produce substantial effects on
academic outcomes. At a broader level, this theoretical foundation underscores the
fundamental inappropriateness of viewing social-psychological interventions as silver
bullets; rather than operating in isolation, such interventions rearrange forces in a com-
plex system.2
A third challenge to understanding the effects of social-psychological interven-
tions is that it is hard to see how relatively brief messages can affect students’
views and behavior, especially when students receive many messages from adults
that seemingly have little effect. As we will explain, social-psychological interven-
tions can be brief yet impactful because they target students’ subjective experi-
ences in school and because they rely on a rich tradition of research on persuasion
and attitude change to powerfully convey psychological ideas.
Fourth, what can seem especially mysterious is how a time-limited or one-shot
social-psychological intervention can generate effects that persist far ahead in
time. For instance, people may assume that an intervention has to remain in mind
to continue to be effective. But like any experience, a psychological intervention
will become less focal as it recedes in time. As we suggest below, a key to under-
standing the long-lasting effects of social-psychological interventions is to under-
stand how they interact with recursive processes already present in schools, such
as the quality of students’ developing relationships with peers and teachers, their
beliefs about their ability, and their acquisition of academic knowledge. It is by
affecting self-reinforcing recursive processes that psychological interventions can
cause lasting improvements in motivation and achievement even when the original
treatment message has faded in salience (e.g., Walton & Cohen, 2011).
In the next section, we describe how we conducted this review. We then sum-
marize four prominent social-psychological interventions, emphasizing the psy-
chological process each intervention targeted and relevant laboratory and field
research. Next we discuss how the effects of these interventions persisted over
time. In doing so, we aim to provide a more nuanced understanding of how social-
psychological interventions work and to suggest how this understanding can
inform efforts to deliver these interventions more broadly.
Method for the Current Review
This is a theoretical review designed to elucidate the theoretical underpinnings
of social-psychological interventions in education, not a comprehensive review of
at Stanford University Libraries on June 7, 2011http://rer.aera.netDownloaded from
them. To locate relevant interventions, we searched the tables of contents and
abstracts of highly cited relevant journals including Child Development,
Developmental Psychology, Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology,
Journal of Educational Psychology, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology,
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Personality and Social Psychology
Bulletin, Psychological Science, and Science (see Table 1). We searched for studies
that (a) evaluated an intervention that communicated a social-psychological mes-
sage but did not teach academic content, (b) randomly assigned students to treat-
ment or control conditions, and (c) observed effects on students’ grades in a course
or in school overall over time. In addition, we examined the curricula vitae of
prominent psychologists conducting intervention research, searching for replica-
tions, extensions, or studies examining boundary conditions. Some important stud-
ies were excluded because they met only some of our criteria. Among the excluded
studies were those that used social-psychological strategies to motivate specific
behaviors in school, such as mastering an individual learning objective or perform-
ing better on a single task, rather than raising achievement in general (e.g., E.
Aronson, Blaney, Stephin, Sikes, & Snapp, 1976; Destin & Oyserman, 2009;
Duckworth, Grant, Loew, Oettingen, & Gollwitzer, in press; Jamieson, Mendes,
Blackstock, & Schmader, 2009; Ramirez & Beilock, 2011; Vansteenkiste, Simons,
Lens, Sheldon, & Deci, 2004).
Notably, our search targeted specifically social-psychological interventions—
interventions designed to change students’ thoughts and feelings in and about
school. This approach excluded cognitive psychology interventions, which inves-
tigate instead how principles of human cognition and learning can inform the
design of effective curricula and pedagogy (and which have been reviewed else-
where; e.g., Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 1999; Ritter, Anderson, Koedinger, &
Corbett, 2007). Nonetheless, in some cases we use the term psychological inter-
ventions as shorthand to refer to social-psychological interventions.
Four Social-Psychological Interventions to Improve Student Achievement
To illustrate general lessons, we focus on basic theory and research underpinning
four prominent social-psychological interventions. These interventions have pro-
duced some of the most striking effects observed in the field and illustrate key themes.
Although we present the studies separately, we note that the processes they target are
few in number and interrelated, including students’ beliefs about their potential for
growth and belonging in the classroom and their efforts to cope with negative stere-
otypes in school. It is important to note, however, that similar conclusions could be
drawn from an analysis of other interventions. Table 1 provides a summary of relevant
studies that we do not discuss in detail (also see Gehlbach, 2010).
Interventions to Change Students’ Attributions for Academic Setbacks
A long line of basic theory and research in social psychology shows that peo-
ple’s attributions—how they explain the causes of events and experiences—shape
their responses to those events and subsequent behavior (Kelley, 1973; Weiner,
1986). For instance, if a student concludes that a bad grade means that he cannot
cut it in math, the student may not invest the time and effort needed to improve his
at Stanford University Libraries on June 7, 2011http://rer.aera.netDownloaded from
Social-Psychological Interventions in Education
math grades (Bandura, 1977). If so, he may continue to perform poorly, reifying
his attribution of inability, leading to an exacerbation cycle of negative attributions
and poor performance (cf. Storms & Nisbett, 1970; also see Wilson, 2006). On the
other hand, if a student thinks that a bad grade means that she needs time to learn
the ropes, the student may redouble her efforts and perform better over time. Is it
possible to change students’ attributions so they see poor grades as the result of a
temporary and not permanent cause? Would such an intervention improve stu-
dents’ academic performance over time?
Intervention 1: Wilson and Linville (1982). Wilson and Linville (1982, 1985)
tested this hypothesis (also see Wilson, Damiani, & Shelton, 2002). They devel-
oped a brief intervention to teach students that poor academic performance is nor-
mal at first in the transition to a new school, that it does not reflect a lack of ability,
and that students’ grades typically improve as they adjust to the new school.
In a series of classic studies, Wilson and Linville (1982, 1985) brought strug-
gling first-year college students to a laboratory and told them that they had inter-
viewed college students about their transition to college. They asked students to
watch some of these videotaped interviews. Students in the treatment group (ran-
domly assigned) saw videos of upperclassmen describing how their grades in col-
lege were low at first but got better with time. These upperclassmen attributed their
early poor performance to unstable causes that dissipate, such as a lack of familiar-
ity with college classes. Students in a control group saw videos of the same upper-
classmen talking about their academic and social interests with no mention of
first-year grades. A year later, students’ official GPAs were collected. Students in
the treatment group had earned higher GPAs than students in the control group (see
Table 1). Moreover, this effect seemed to gain in strength with each successive
term. This finding is consistent with the hypothesis that the intervention set in
motion a recursive or self-reinforcing attributional process whereby better perfor-
mance each term reinforced more adaptive attributions for early academic strug-
gles. In addition, treated students were 80% less likely to drop out of college. This
basic intervention has been replicated many times with diverse populations (see
Haynes, Perry, Stupnisky, & Daniels, 2009; Wilson et al., 2002) including adoles-
cents (e.g., Good, Aronson, & Inzlicht, 2003).
Intervention 2: Blackwell et al. (2007). Dweck and colleagues have investigated
how students’ implicit theories of intelligence shape their interpretation of and
response to academic setbacks (Dweck, 2006; Dweck & Leggett, 1988; Molden &
Dweck, 2006). In laboratory research, Dweck finds that students who believe that
intelligence is fixed and unchangeable (an entity theory of intelligence) are more
likely to attribute academic setbacks to a lack of ability than students who believe
that intelligence is malleable and improvable with hard work and effort (an incre-
mental theory of intelligence). Students with the incremental theory instead
see setbacks as the result of insufficient effort or a poor strategy. In turn, such
attributions shape whether students respond to setbacks helplessly (withdrawing
effort) or resiliently (redoubling effort, seeking help, using a better strategy, etc.).
at Stanford University Libraries on June 7, 2011http://rer.aera.netDownloaded from
Yeager & Walton
In one series of laboratory studies, Mueller and Dweck (1998) gave fifth-grade
students a moderately difficult set of logic problems. After completing them, stu-
dents were praised. Some children (randomly assigned) received intelligence
praise—praise that could induce an entity theory of intelligence (“That’s a really
high score. You must be very smart at these problems”). Others received effort
praise predicted to induce an incremental theory of intelligence (“That’s a really
high score. You must have worked hard at these problems”) or neutral praise
(“That’s a really high score”). Next, students were given an especially difficult set
of problems on which all students performed poorly. Finally, students were given
a crucial third set of problems equally challenging as the first set.
The effect of the type of praise was dramatic. On the final set of problems,
children who received neutral praise performed no better and no worse than they
had on the first set. Children who received effort praise did better and asked to do
more challenging problems in the future. But children who received intelligence
praise solved 30% fewer problems and asked to do only easy problems from then
on. Being led to attribute success to fixed intelligence with just a sentence of praise
undermined students’ motivation and performance following a failure experience
(for a relevant longitudinal study, see Blackwell et al., 2007, Study 1).
On the basis of these and other results, Blackwell and colleagues (2007, Study 2)
designed an intervention to lead middle school students to view intelligence as
malleable. Students in a New York City public school attended an eight-session
workshop in which they learned about study skills and scientific research showing
that the brain grows connections and “gets smarter” when a person works on chal-
lenging tasks. Students in a randomized control group learned only about study
skills. Results showed that students in the control group continued the downward
decline in math grades that normally occurs in middle school. But students who
learned the incremental theory reversed this trend and earned better math grades
over the course of the year (see Figure 1). Study skills alone did not lead to
improvement in math; students needed the incremental mind-set and motivation to
put those skills into practice.
The effect of implicit theories is robust. Other implicit theory interventions
have generated similar improvements in diverse populations (e.g., J. Aronson,
Fried, & Good, 2002; Good et al., 2003; see Table 1). In addition, implicit theories
interventions have been implemented structurally in middle and high school math
classes across the United States by the Charles A. Dana Center (2008) at the
University of Texas, yielding large effects on such important outcomes as the per-
centage of high school students who repeat algebra (e.g., reducing this figure from
24% to 9%).
Interventions to Mitigate Stereotype Threat
A significant problem in education involves the persistence of large differences
in academic achievement between different social groups, such as between racial
or ethnic minority students and nonminority students and, in math and science,
between women and men. Although structural factors contribute to these differ-
ences, psychological processes also play an important role (Walton & Spencer,
2009). Research on stereotype threat shows that the worry that one could be
at Stanford University Libraries on June 7, 2011http://rer.aera.netDownloaded from
perceived through the lens of a negative intellectual stereotype in school can
undermine academic performance (Steele, 2010; Steele, Spencer, & Aronson,
2002). For instance, the stereotype that certain ethnic groups are less intelligent
than others and that women are less skilled in quantitative fields than men creates
stress, distraction, and anxiety for people targeted by negative stereotypes in per-
formance situations, and this, in turn, undermines academic performance (see
Schmader, Johns, & Forbes, 2008). Stereotype threat is so pervasive that it causes
common measures of academic performance including grades and test scores to
systematically underestimate the ability of negatively stereotyped students (Walton
& Spencer, 2009). Can psychological strategies mitigate stereotype threat in field
settings? Could these strategies raise stereotyped students’ performance and reduce
achievement gaps? (For related interventions that raise the performance of ethnic
minority students, see E. Aronson et al., 1978; Steele, 1997.)
Intervention 3: Cohen et al. (2006, 2009). Cohen and colleagues (2006, 2009)
hypothesized that helping reduce the stress and worry caused by stereotype threat
could boost the academic performance of negatively stereotyped students. Their
intervention was designed on the basis of a long line of psychological research
investigating how people cope with threats to their sense of self (Festinger, 1957;
Greenwald, 1980). Most relevant here, self-affirmation theory proposes that people are
motivated to protect their view of themselves as good, moral, and efficacious (Sherman
FIGURE 1. Math grades by experimental condition (covariate-adjusted means) in
Blackwell, Trzesniewski, and Dweck (2007). Reprinted by permission from John Wiley
and Sons, Inc.
Note. Experimental = incremental theory workshop group; control = study skills workshop
at Stanford University Libraries on June 7, 2011http://rer.aera.netDownloaded from
Yeager & Walton
& Cohen, 2006; Steele, 1988). When people’s sense of self is threatened, they
experience high levels of stress. Self-affirmation theory proposes that reminding
people of diverse, positive aspects of themselves can lead people to see
negative events and information as less threatening and reduce stress and thus help
people function more effectively (Sherman & Hartson, in press). One way to shore
up people’s sense of self is by asking people to write about values that are person-
ally important to them. Indeed, laboratory experiments find that brief value-
affirmation writing exercises can help negatively stereotyped students perform
better on academic tasks (Martens, Johns, Greenberg, & Schimel, 2006; Taylor &
Walton, in press).
Cohen and colleagues (2006, 2009) tested whether a value affirmation could
improve stereotyped students’ real-world school performance. In a double-blind
randomized controlled experiment, they delivered a value-affirmation intervention
to White and Black seventh grade students as an in-class writing exercise. Half of
students completed a value affirmation—they identified two or three values that
were personally important to them and wrote about why those values mattered to
them. Control students identified values that were not important to them and wrote
about why they might matter to someone else. The 15- to 20-minute exercise was
administered at the beginning of the school year, before a recursive cycle of feel-
ings of threat and poor academic performance could take hold. Teachers were blind
to students’ condition assignment to forestall expectancy effects.
The results were striking. Students’ grades were collected over the next 2 years.
By the end of the first semester, treated Black students earned significantly higher
grades than peers in the control condition, reducing the gap between Black and
White students by about 40%. A boost in students’ GPA across all academic classes
persisted for 2 years with a few additional value-affirmations exercises (see Figure
2; Cohen et al., 2009). This basic effect has been replicated in multiple studies,
including among women in science and with Latino adolescents (see Miyake et al.,
2010; Sherman et al., 2011).
Intervention 4: Walton and Cohen (2007, 2011). One consequence of negative
stereotypes is to cause people to wonder whether they will be fully included
and valued in an academic environment. Anyone may wonder if he or she will
get along with others in a new setting, like a transfer student at a new school.
But students who face negative stereotypes may worry about their belonging
more pervasively. This feeling of uncertainty about belonging can cause stu-
dents to perceive negative social events in school—such as feelings of loneli-
ness or receiving criticism from an instructor—as evidence that they do not
belong in the school in general, an inference that undermines motivation
(Walton & Cohen, 2007; also see Mendoza-Denton, Purdie, Downey, Davis, &
Pietrzak, 2002).
Walton and Cohen (2007, Experiment 1) examined students’ response to social
adversity directly in a laboratory study. They posed a subtle threat to college stu-
dents’ sense of social belonging in a field of study. They asked students to list
either two friends who would fit in well in the field or eight such friends (cf.
Schwarz et al., 1991). Listing eight friends was difficult, and equally so for White
and Black students. The question the study tested was what meaning, if any, this
at Stanford University Libraries on June 7, 2011http://rer.aera.netDownloaded from
Term 1
Term 2
Term 3
Term 4
Term 1
Term 2
Term 3
Term 4
Year 1 Year 2
Mean GPA in Core Courses
European Americans—Affirmation & Control
High-Performing African Americans—Affirmation
High-Performing African Americans—Control
Low-Performing African Americans—Affirmation
Low-Performing African Americans—Control
FIGURE 2. Mean GPA in core courses for each term over 2 years, as a function of
student group (African American vs. European American), experimental condition,
and preintervention level of performance of African Americans (an average of the prior
year’s GPA and preintervention seventh-grade performance) in Cohen, Garcia, Purdie-
Vaughns, Apfel, and Brzustoski (2009). Reprinted by permission from the American
Association for the Advancement of Science.
Note. African Americans were categorized into low and high performers based on a median split
within their racial group. Because European Americans in the two conditions did not differ sig-
nificantly, their data were combined. Means adjusted for baseline covariates and students’
assigned teacher team.
difficulty had for students. For White students, the difficulty listing friends carried
no particular meaning—White students’ interest and motivation in the field were
unchanged whether they had been asked to list eight friends or two. But for Black
students, the difficulty experienced listing eight friends seemed to mean that they
at Stanford University Libraries on June 7, 2011http://rer.aera.netDownloaded from
Yeager & Walton
and, moreover, their racial group did not belong in the field. As compared to con-
trol participants, their motivation in the field dropped precipitously, and they dis-
couraged a Black peer from pursuing the field as an area of study.
Building on this laboratory research, Walton and Cohen created an intervention to
forestall global inferences of nonbelonging in school (Experiment 2). Adopting proce-
dures developed by Wilson and Linville (1982, 1985), they gave first-year college
students information indicating that students of all ethnicities worried at first about
their belonging in the transition to college but that these worries dissipated with time
and eventually all students came to feel at home. This information was designed to
convey that doubts about belonging and negative social events are normal at first in
college and are nondiagnostic of an actual lack of belonging. Students then engaged in
a series of activities designed to reinforce the treatment message—for instance, they
wrote an essay for incoming students the next year about how their own feelings of
belonging in college had changed over time (see J. Aronson et al., 2002). Control stu-
dents went through the same exercises, but the information they were exposed to was
irrelevant to issues of belonging. In total, the intervention lasted about an hour.
The intervention had striking benefits for Black students. In two cohorts of
students and relative to several control groups, the intervention improved Black
students’ grades in college from sophomore through senior year, halving the
Black–White achievement gap (see Figure 3; Walton & Cohen, 2007, 2011). This
effect was statistically mediated by a change in Black students’ construal of social
adversity on campus. Daily diary surveys completed in the week following the
intervention showed that, in the control condition, Black students’ daily sense of
belonging in school rose and fell with the level of adversity they experienced each
day. To these students, negative social events seemed to convey that they did not
belong in the school in general. The treatment cut off this relationship—here,
Black students experienced similar levels of adversity, but adversity no longer led
them to question their belonging. For instance, consider a Black freshman who had
a bad day. Say his teacher criticized him in class or he was not invited to dinner by
dormmates. Already worried about his belonging, he is more likely than a White
student to see it as proof that he does not belong. A student who goes through the
intervention, however, still encounters such events but they no longer carry global
meaning; they are negative, but not diagnostic. Statistically, Walton and Cohen
(2011) found that it was this change in construal that mediated the effect of
the intervention on the 3-year gain in Black students’ GPA. In addition, 3 years
posttreatment, the intervention also improved Black students’ self-reported physi-
cal health and happiness, both outcomes linked strongly to a secure sense of
In research in progress, tailored versions of the social-belonging intervention
have improved grades and school-related attitudes and behaviors among African
American middle school students (Walton, Cohen, Garcia, Apfel, & Master, 2011)
and female undergraduate engineering students (Walton, Logel, Peach, & Spencer,
Understanding Social-Psychological Interventions in Education
Readers may wonder, how did these interventions work at all—how could they
change students’ psychology to improve academic outcomes even in the short
at Stanford University Libraries on June 7, 2011http://rer.aera.netDownloaded from
term? And how did they maintain their effects over time? Below we address each
question in turn, followed by a discussion of how social-psychological interven-
tions could be delivered effectively to more students.
How do social-psychological interventions change students’ psychology to improve
academic outcomes in the short term? They do so by precisely targeting students’
experience in school from the student’s perspective and by using impactful delivery
mechanisms. Although the four psychological interventions reviewed above tar-
geted different (albeit related) psychological processes, each began with a precise
understanding of students’ subjective experience in school—what school seems
like to the student in the classroom, not how school appears to an observer,
researcher, or teacher. These interventions may seem “small” to observers, and
often they are in terms of time and cost and in relation to other school reforms.
From the perspective of a researcher or teacher, an implicit theories workshop or
a value-affirmation writing exercise is just one of many classroom experiences
given to students. But to a student sitting at a desk in the third row worrying about
whether a poor test score means she is stupid or whether others will reduce her
to a negative stereotype, an experience like learning that the brain can grow and
form new connections when challenged or being invited to describe personally
Junior Year Senior Year
European Americans, Social-Belonging Treatment
African Americans, Social-Belonging Treatment
African Americans, Randomized Control
European Americans, Randomized Control
First Year Sophomore Year
FIGURE 3. Mean academic performance as a function of semester, student race, and
experimental condition (raw means) in Walton and Cohen (2011). Reprinted by per-
mission from the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
at Stanford University Libraries on June 7, 2011http://rer.aera.netDownloaded from
Yeager & Walton
important values may feel quite “large” (E. Aronson et al., 1978). Such interven-
tions directly address students’ experience in school and thus their school-related
Critically, if a social-psychological intervention does not deliver its message in
a way that changes how students think or feel about school or about themselves in
school, then nothing has been delivered at all. Each intervention reviewed above
used a delivery mechanism that, although brief, drew on research on the psychol-
ogy of persuasion to make the experience maximally impactful for students. Rather
than simply delivering an appeal to a student who passively receives it, each inter-
vention enlisted students in actively participating in or generating the intervention
itself (see Lewin, 1952). These strategies can induce deep processing and prepare
students to transfer the content to new settings (Chase, Chin, Oppezzo, & Schwartz,
2009; Schwartz & Martin, 2004). For instance, one delivery mechanism featured
in several interventions involved asking students to write letters to younger stu-
dents advocating the treatment message (e.g., J. Aronson et al., 2002; Walton &
Cohen, 2007; 2011). As research on the “saying-is-believing” effect shows (E.
Aronson, 1999), generating and then advocating a persuasive message to a recep-
tive audience is a powerful means of persuasion (for a related example, see
Hulleman & Harackiewicz, 2009).
Although these delivery mechanisms are psychologically powerful, the inter-
ventions are in an important sense “stealthy,” a quality that may increase their
effectiveness (Robinson, in press). In none of the interventions were students
exposed to a direct persuasive appeal or told that they were receiving “an interven-
tion” to improve their performance. Students in Wilson and Linville’s (1982, 1985)
intervention thought they were responding to a survey. Students in the Walton and
Cohen (2007, 2011) intervention took the role of mentor to younger students (also
see J. Aronson et al., 2002). They were not told that they themselves were the
targets of the persuasive message. Other studies used class assignments to deliver
the intervention, such as a neuroscience workshop (Blackwell et al., 2007) or an
in-class writing assignment (Cohen et al., 2009; Hulleman & Harackiewicz, 2009),
both of which had no obvious link to students’ academic performance. Overall,
these indirect approaches may be more effective than overt strategies. They do not
feel controlling and so they minimize resistence and reactance to the message.
They also allow students to take credit for their success rather than risking the pos-
sibility that students attribute positive outcomes to a heavy-handed intervention.
Furthermore, stealthy interventions do not stigmatize students—they do not con-
vey to students that they are seen as in need of help or perceived as likely to fail,
which could undermine an intervention’s intended effect. Indeed, telling people
that a value affirmation is intended to make them feel better can reduce its effec-
tiveness (Sherman et al., 2009).
Another way these interventions are “stealthy” is by being brief. One recent ran-
domized field experiment found greater behavior change after a short (5-minute)
intervention to reduce drinking among college student, than after a longer (50-min-
ute) intervention (Kulesza, Apperson, Larimer, & Copeland, 2010; also see Petry,
Weinstock, Ledgerwood, & Morasco, 2008). Although these studies did not focus on
educational outcomes, they contradict the intuition that “bigger” interventions are
necessarily “better.”
at Stanford University Libraries on June 7, 2011http://rer.aera.netDownloaded from
Social-Psychological Interventions in Education
This analysis leads to counterintuitive predictions about how to maximize the
impact of psychological interventions. It would be reasonable to think, for exam-
ple, that training teachers (or parents) to reinforce psychological messages or dou-
bling the length of an in-class growth mind-set workshop from 8 to 16 sessions
would amplify an intervention’s benefits. However, if adolescents perceive a
teacher’s reinforcement of a psychological idea as conveying that they are seen as
in need of help, teacher training or an extended workshop could undo the effects
of the intervention, not increase its benefits. Moreover, in the case of the Cohen
et al. (2006) intervention, for example, if stereotype threat was a force preventing
students from achieving their potential and this force was removed through a val-
ues affirmation, it is not clear that additional strategies to remove the same restrain-
ing force in other ways, for instance, by having teachers reinforce a student’s
values, would increase the effect. In this way, the teaching of academic content in
school is fundamentally different from the delivery of psychological interventions.
Academic content is complex and taught layer on layer: The more math students
are taught, in general the more math they learn. Changing students’ psychology, by
contrast, sometimes requires a lighter touch.
Nevertheless, when different interventions target different psychological barri-
ers to learning, combining interventions may produce additive effects. For instance,
one recent study found that both a social-belonging intervention and an interven-
tion to train students to self-affirm in times of stress (an “affirmation training”
intervention) raised the achievement of female engineering students, yet did so
through different mechanisms. The social-belonging intervention led women to
perceive that others viewed female engineers more positively; the affirmation-
training intervention prevented the perception that others viewed female engineers
negatively from undermining women’s engineering grades (Walton, Logel, et al.,
2011). It is intriguing to speculate that a combined intervention could yield greater
effects, provided that the mechanism used to deliver one intervention does not
interfere with the meaning of the other intervention.
In summary, social-psychological interventions change students’ behavior by
(a) targeting students’ experience in school from the student’s perspective and
(b) deploying powerful yet stealthy persuasive tactics to deliver the treatment mes-
sage effectively without generating problematic side effects, such as stigmatizing
How do social-psychological interventions affect student outcomes over long peri-
ods of time? They do so by affecting recursive processes that accumulate effects
over time. A critical question about psychological interventions is how brief exer-
cises could improve students’ achievement months and years later. In general, we
think it is exceedingly unlikely that psychological interventions generate long-
lasting benefits because students keep the treatment message vividly in mind over
long periods. Consistent with this analysis, in Walton and Cohen’s (2011) social-
belonging intervention, students were asked at the end of their college careers to
recall the treatment message. Despite the large benefits of the intervention for
African American students over the 3-year assessment period, few students accu-
rately recalled the treatment message and the vast majority denied that taking part
in the 1-hour study had had any effect on their college experience.
at Stanford University Libraries on June 7, 2011http://rer.aera.netDownloaded from
Yeager & Walton
How then do psychological interventions generate long-lasting benefits?
They do so by setting into motion recursive social, psychological, and intellec-
tual processes in school. As students study and learn and build academic skills
and knowledge, they are better prepared to learn and perform well in the future.
As students feel more secure in their belonging in school and form better rela-
tionships with peers and teachers, these become sources of support that promote
feelings of belonging and academic success later. When students achieve success
beyond what they thought possible, their beliefs about their potential may
change, leading them to invest themselves more in school, further improving
performance and reinforcing their belief in their potential for growth. As stu-
dents do well, they are placed in higher level classes—gateways that raise expec-
tations, expose them to high-achieving peers, and improve subsequent academic
opportunities. Through these recursive processes, students gain momentum and
achieve better academic outcomes over time—or they do not. A well-timed,
well-targeted psychological intervention taps into these recursive processes and
thus changes the trajectory of students’ experiences and outcomes in school (see
Cohen et al., 2009).
Consistent with this analysis, research tracking the long-term effects of social-
psychological interventions finds repeatedly that such interventions change stu-
dents’ academic trajectories. Indeed, the mean-level effects of psychological
interventions on student grades are accounted for by changes in the trajectory of
students’ academic performance over time. The value-affirmation intervention, for
instance, was delivered to students early in seventh grade and had long-term effects
primarily among previously poor-performing African American students (see
Figure 2; Cohen et al., 2009). Evidence suggests the affirmation cut off a down-
ward spiral in performance, preventing worse performance from leading to greater
feelings of stress and threat and undermining subsequent performance (also see
Blackwell et al., 2007; Sherman & Hartson, in press). Analogously, the Walton and
Cohen (2007, 2011) social-belonging intervention set in motion a positive recur-
sive process that improved students’ grades over 3 years in a steady step-by-step
fashion (see Figure 3; also see Wilson & Linville, 1985).
How do psychological interventions change the trajectory of students’ academic
outcomes? Research directly addresses this question. For example, Blackwell and
colleagues (2007, Study 1) found that when students believed that they could get
smarter over time, they were more likely to believe that working hard could help
them succeed in school and they endorsed the goal of learning from coursework.
These beliefs and goals motivated greater use of effective learning strategies (such
as increasing effort after setbacks) and less use of ineffective strategies (such as
spending less time on a subject after setbacks). Over time, this increased effort and
use of more productive learning strategies helped students take advantage of instruc-
tion in school, persist longer, seek help when needed, and ultimately learn more in
school. These changes in beliefs and strategies statistically mediated a 2-year upward
trajectory observed in middle school math grades for students with an incremental
mind-set. By understanding this interaction between psychological processes (e.g.,
students beliefs about the nature of intelligence) and school structures (e.g., learning
opportunities present in school), it is easier to see how changing students’ beliefs
could affect their school achievement over long periods.
at Stanford University Libraries on June 7, 2011http://rer.aera.netDownloaded from
Social-Psychological Interventions in Education
Other research investigates how interventions that mitigate concern about neg-
ative stereotypes can raise students’ achievement. For example, research shows
that stereotype threat can undermine learning, not just academic performance. In
one laboratory experiment, African American students who studied novel aca-
demic material in a threatening rather than nonthreatening learning environment
performed worse on a test of that material a week later even in a nonthreatening
performance setting (Taylor & Walton, in press; also see Rydell, Shiffrin, Boucher,
Van Loo, & Rydell, 2010). This effect did not occur for European Americans. In a
second study, Taylor and Walton (in press) found that a value-affirmation undid
this effect of threat—it helped African American students learn more despite
threat. The results suggest that one way a value-affirmation intervention may
improve long-term academic outcomes is by helping students acquire the building
blocks of academic skills and knowledge needed to perform well in subsequent
academic settings.
Other studies examine recursive social-relational processes. For instance, as
noted, Walton and Cohen’s (2007, 2011) social-belonging intervention led to a
term-by-term improvement in African American students’ grades over 3 years (see
Figure 3), and this boost in grades was mediated by a change in students’ construal
of adverse social events in school—these events no longer carried a global, threat-
ening meaning to students (Walton & Cohen, 2011). If students feel more secure
in their belonging in school, they may approach others in the academic environ-
ment more and with more positive attitudes, building better relationships, reinforc-
ing their feelings of belonging, and laying the groundwork for later academic
success (also see Mendoza-Denton et al., 2002).
If effective psychological interventions alter recursive processes in school, then
the timing of these interventions is critical. In many cases, it may be essential to
deliver psychological interventions at key educational junctures, such as at the
beginning of an academic year (Cohen et al., 2006; Cohen et al., 2009), during an
important transition such as when students enter a new school (Walton & Cohen,
2007, 2011; Wilson & Linville, 1982, 1985), or before an academic gateway, such
as before students are tracked into algebra versus lower level math classes
(Crosnoe, Lopez-Gonzalez, & Muller, 2004; Hallinan, 2001) or before a high-
stakes exam (Papay, Murnane, & Willett, 2010). Illustrating the importance of
timing, one study found that the earlier a value-affirmation intervention was deliv-
ered the more it improved students’ grades and, furthermore, that timing mattered
more than frequency (Cook, Purdie-Vaughns, Garcia, & Cohen, 2011). This find-
ing echoes Raudenbush’s (1984) classic meta-analysis of teacher expectancy
effects, which found that teacher expectancy interventions were effective only
when delivered within the first few weeks of school.
The importance of recursive processes in sustaining the effects of psychological
interventions over time reinforces the proposition that these interventions do not
work in isolation; rather, they operate in a complex system involving numerous
structural factors (Lewin, 1952). When well targeted and well timed, a psycho-
logical intervention relies on recursive social, psychological, and intellectual pro-
cesses that are present in school to produce sustained gains in students’ school
at Stanford University Libraries on June 7, 2011http://rer.aera.netDownloaded from
How Can Social-Psychological Interventions Be Scaled
to Benefit More Students?
The review above discusses how social-psychological interventions can boost
student achievement and address long-standing achievement gaps. But as Bryk
(2009) argues, to scale an educational innovation it is not enough to know that it
can work in one context; “we need to know how to make it work reliably over
many diverse contexts and situations” (p. 598; also see Morris & Hiebert, 2011).
There are several challenges to scaling psychological interventions, many of which
are common to educational innovations in general. Instead of reviewing the vast
literature on scaling educational interventions, in this discussion we address how
lessons from this literature apply specifically to efforts to scale social-psycholog-
ical interventions and suggest how key challenges might be overcome. In particu-
lar, we focus on two topics: (a) What should be scaled, and what are the barriers to
scaling this? and (b) What kinds of strategies and expertise are needed to scale
social-psychological interventions effectively?
What Should Be Scaled, and What Are the Barriers to Scaling This?
It is the specific psychological experience created by a psychological intervention
that should be reproduced at scale, not incidental features of the intervention. For
instance, a scaled-up growth mind-set intervention should lead students to believe that
when they experience setbacks their ability can improve, not necessarily teach them
neuroanatomy. This is analogous to other well-designed reforms in education, where
it is essential to scale the student learning experience rather than the specific activities,
worksheets, or examples used to create this experience. When a psychological inter-
vention is delivered to more students, what barriers can prevent the intended psycho-
logical experience from being replicated? We address three barriers below.
First, past research reminds us that it can be easy to scale up superficial features
of an educational innovation without reproducing the intended psychological or
educational experience (see, e.g., Fullan, 2001; Labaree, 1998; Tyack & Cuban,
1995). Under these circumstances the intervention would not be predicted to have
the intended effect. Take the case of the California mission project. The project
began as a small but successful initiative in which fourth grade students conducted
independent research on one of the Spanish missions in California, created a rep-
lica of the mission—in some cases, even making adobe bricks by hand—and pre-
sented a class report. The project seemed to increase intrinsic motivation (Checkley,
2008); for instance, in news reports teachers said students were highly engaged
and students reported planning summer vacations around visiting their mission
(“Drawings Aid,” 1931; Haessler, 1973). Excited by the early returns, reformers
quickly took the initiative to scale, requiring nearly every fourth grader in
California to do a mission project. Soon enough, local stores sold premade “mis-
sion kits” with fact sheets on each. What began as a project requiring original
research and intensive thinking ended as a trip to an arts and crafts store. Although
no formal evaluation has been done, it would be surprising if this version of the
project continued to produce benefits for student motivation. When an intervention
is taken to scale without the theoretically essential components, it will not have the
intended effects.
at Stanford University Libraries on June 7, 2011http://rer.aera.netDownloaded from
Social-Psychological Interventions in Education
Similarly, if scaled improperly, social-psychological interventions could
become something different entirely—not a test of whether the theory works at
scale but a worksheet to be handed out or a lesson to “get through.” It is easy to
imagine, for instance, how a value-affirmation intervention, if delivered poorly,
could become a caricature—a hollow, ego-boosting exercise in self-praise (per-
haps one reminiscent of a scene from Saturday Night Lives Stuart Smalley skit;
“I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me”)—not a tool
for affirming students’ values and reducing stress and threat in school.
Second, even when interventions are delivered with an effort to reproduce the-
oretically essential components, research finds that they can sometimes be derailed
by seemingly small changes in how the intervention is delivered. This occurs if
such changes lead recipients to perceive a different meaning in the intervention
(for striking examples, compare Langer & Rodin, 1976, to Schulz & Hanusa,
1978; compare Paluck, 2009, to Paluck, 2010; also see Marigold, Holmes & Ross,
2007, Study 3). For instance, in the effective Hulleman and Harackiewicz (2009)
intervention reviewed in Table 1, students generated and wrote reasons why
schoolwork was relevant to their lives, and this led to a .80 grade point (out of 4.0)
boost at the end of the school year for students with low expectations for success
in class. But when students were told why the schoolwork was important instead
of generating their own reasons, the intervention had a negative effect on students
with low expectations for success—in effect, by telling low-ability students how
important their schoolwork was, they were reminded that they might not be able
to accomplish those important goals, leading to less interest (Godes, Hulleman, &
Harackiewicz, 2007).
The challenge of delivering psychological interventions may be more acute
when they are delivered by teachers or other educational practitioners (cf. Morris
& Hiebert, 2011). The history of school reform reminds us that teachers can vary
in whether they deliver an intervention in the way intended or in name only, chang-
ing the meaning and effect of the intervention (Fullan, 2001; Tyack & Cuban,
1995). Labaree (1998) argues that each teacher has a “duchy” that operates rela-
tively independently once the classroom door closes, leading to excellence that is
unhampered by outside control in some classrooms and low performance that is
resistant to attempts at improvement in other classrooms. Any educational reform
that relies on teachers to deliver a message in a classroom is affected by this reality.
This certainly applies to social-psychological interventions.
However, unlike many traditional educational reforms, psychological interven-
tions involve relatively brief, discrete exercises, potentially reducing heterogene-
ity in implementation. For example, a values-affirmation or social-belonging
intervention consists of a self-contained reading and writing activity. Implicit the-
ories interventions can be delivered effectively online (through, e.g., www.brainol- or; for an evaluation, see Romero, Paunesku, & Dweck,
2011), as could many of the other interventions summarized in Table 1 (also see
Morisano, Hirsh, Peterson, Pihl, & Shore, 2010). Of course, even when using
an online approach, basic preconditions such as classroom management may be
necessary for an intervention to succeed. Just completing an intervention in a
rowdy classroom or one where other students can read or comment on a student’s
responses (e.g., a description of her or his core values) could undermine an inter-
vention’s effectiveness. One study that examined this possibility found that a
at Stanford University Libraries on June 7, 2011http://rer.aera.netDownloaded from
Yeager & Walton
social-psychological intervention administered in classrooms varied in its fidelity
to experimental protocols and yielded no overall positive effect, whereas the same
intervention delivered in a controlled setting (a laboratory) was effective (Hulleman
& Cordray, 2009).
A third potential challenge to scaling psychological interventions involves how
the meaning of an intervention can change in different contexts. If the meaning of
an intervention changes, its effect may change as well. One way to help make an
intervention meaningful for diverse students is to structure the exercise to allow
students to personalize their responses so intervention materials evoke the intended
experience in the way that is most relevant to them. For instance, in an affirmation
intervention, students rank order values in terms of their importance to themselves
and then write about their top-ranked value; they are not told which value to select.
In a social-belonging intervention, students think about their own personal experi-
ence in the transition to a new school and write about how their experience illus-
trates the general process of change students experience transitioning to the school
and coming to feel at home there. This element of personalization allows each
student to make the intervention her or his own. In many settings, identical materi-
als, if administered in well-managed classrooms and with fidelity, may be person-
ally meaningful to diverse students and thus produce positive effects for them.
However, the effectiveness of social-psychological interventions may also be
enhanced by embedding contextually appropriate elements. For instance, the val-
ues students rank order in an affirmation intervention should include values that
are, in fact, personally important to students in the population at hand; if the list
does not include a broad range of values and ones important in the local context
(e.g., in some settings more than others, religious values), the intervention may be
less effective. Similarly, contextually appropriate colloquialisms or anecdotes
embedded in a social-belonging intervention—specific stories about older stu-
dents’ feelings of belonging in the transition to students’ own school—may
increase the intervention’s effectiveness. Of course, making the materials more
specific to some students could reduce an intervention’s relevance for dissimilar
other students.
In addition, relational dynamics between teachers and students could affect the
meaning an intervention carries for students (cf. Raudenbush, 1984). It could seem
insincere if a teacher with whom a student has a hostile relationship asks the stu-
dent to complete a value affirmation, perhaps undermining the effectiveness of the
intervention. Similarly, an incremental mind-set intervention might have no effect
if students believe that the person who tells them about their potential for growth
and improvement does not believe this himself or herself.
Importantly, the materials and procedures used in an intervention can differ
across contexts and still produce similar psychological experiences. However,
these changes must be guided by theory. For example, Dweck and colleagues have
taught an incremental theory of intelligence by asking participants to read brief
scientific articles describing how the brain can get smarter (e.g., Nussbaum &
Dweck, 2008), by providing effort versus intelligence praise after success (Mueller
& Dweck, 1998), by conducting neuroscience workshops (Blackwell et al., 2007),
by orchestrating email exchanges during a yearlong program with a mentor (Good
et al., 2003), and by asking students to write a pen pal letter to a younger student
(J. Aronson et al., 2002). These approaches differ in various ways. But each
at Stanford University Libraries on June 7, 2011http://rer.aera.netDownloaded from
Social-Psychological Interventions in Education
conveys the core message that intelligence is malleable. When equipped with a
well-specified theory of the psychological experience an intervention is designed
to create, materials and procedures can be modified, as necessary, to create the
target experience most effectively for a particular context and population.
In sum, we do not believe that practitioners should pick up previously effective
experimental materials and freely adapt them without planning or evaluation. Nor do
we believe they should hand out the original materials without considering whether
they would convey the intended meaning in the local context. Although in many
cases materials and procedures developed for one context may work well in a new
context, adapting them might increase their effectiveness. As in a curricular initia-
tive, deciding how, when, and whether to adapt materials and procedures is difficult.
We therefore turn to the question of what kind of expertise is needed to create the
intended psychological experience for students in diverse contexts.
What Kinds of Expertise and Collaborations Are Required to Scale Social-
Psychological Interventions Effectively?
To increase the reliability of social-psychological interventions across contexts,
researchers and practitioners will have to decide whether to customize an interven-
tion and, if so, how to do so to best evoke the intended psychological experience.
Making these decisions draws on wisdom in two important areas: (a) theoretical
expertise, or an understanding of the psychological experience that is targeted by
the intervention, and (b) contextual expertise, or an understanding of the psycho-
logical experiences and backgrounds of students in the local context
If so, delivering psychological interventions at scale may be done best by creat-
ing an equal collaboration between researchers with a basic theoretical understand-
ing of psychological processes and contextual experts, including qualitative
researchers, administrators, and educational practitioners who have profound,
intuitive knowledge or metis (Scott, 1998) of local students and contexts.
Contextual experts can identify areas where the procedures or materials used in an
intervention match or do not match local constraints and meanings. Theoretical
experts can assess whether potential modifications lead an intervention to hit or
miss its intended psychological mark. Because subtle changes to delivery mecha-
nisms can shift the meanings of interventions for students, sometimes in nonobvi-
ous or unpredictable ways, researchers and practitioners should approach efforts
to scale psychological interventions with humility and with rigorous, step-by-step
evaluation. Qualitative methods may supplement experimental methods in these
Such equal collaborations have proven effective in other contexts, such as the
National Writing Project (McDonald, Buchanan, & Sterling, 2004), which scaled
an initiative to improve writing instruction using a network of researchers and
teachers who customized, refined, and delivered writing instruction to more than
5,000 students in seven states. Across 15 evaluation studies, National Writing
Project students made more gains in writing than matched comparison group stu-
dents (National Writing Project, 2010)—a promising result considering the vari-
ability in instruction across contexts. Another education research and development
initiative, the Strategic Education Research Partnership (Donovan, Wigdor, &
Snow, 2003), has found similarly positive results for students’ academic vocabu-
lary (also see Morris & Hiebert, 2011). More relevant here, some organizations are
at Stanford University Libraries on June 7, 2011http://rer.aera.netDownloaded from
Yeager & Walton
beginning to apply a similar approach to social-psychological interventions. For
instance, the new education research and development enterprise created by the
Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching has formed a network of
community colleges and researchers focused on the improvement of outcomes for
developmental (or remedial) math students (Bryk, 2009; Bryk, Gomez, & Grunow,
in press). Psychological interventions form one part of this team’s strategy. This
collaboration and others like it between researchers and practitioners can create
relational trust, a critical component of educational change (Bryk & Schneider,
2002; Bryk, Sebring, Allensworth, Luppescu, & Easton, 2010), and may increase
the likelihood that materials and procedures will be appropriate in local contexts.
These collaborations may prove fruitful for scaling psychological interventions.
Along similar lines, it may be useful to revisit past suggestions for creating a
new class of professional—a “psychological engineer”—a person with the exper-
tise needed to scale psychological interventions effectively. Such professionals
would be trained in experimental methodology and psychological theory, although
their primary work would be not to advance psychological theory but to under-
stand and alter psychological dynamics in applied settings. This would require
expertise in user-centered design and related qualitative inquiry, in the conduct of
equal collaborations across the theory–real world divide, in the measurement of
psychological processes, and in the delivery and experimental evaluation of psy-
chological interventions. Such a professional could design and implement inter-
ventions, evaluate their effects, and troubleshoot interventions that do not produce
their intended effect. For instance, using measures of psychological processes, a
psychological engineer could examine whether an intervention failed to affect the
intended process and, if so, examine with practitioners how the delivery mecha-
nism could be improved. Alternately, if the intervention affected the intended pro-
cess, the psychological engineer and practitioners could examine whether this
process was important in the local context in affecting relevant outcomes.
In collaborative efforts to scale social-psychological interventions, the flow of
ideas between theory and application will be a two-way street (Bronfenbrenner,
1979; Lewin, 1952). As interventions are created and deployed and their effects
assessed, theories of psychological processes may be refined, leading to improved
interventions. This is directly analogous to work in other applied sciences, where
basic research and application feed back on each other in a mutually beneficial
cycle. When social-psychological interventions are taken to scale, the constraints
of application at many schools may lead to refinements in their essential elements
and the elimination of less important features, making them more streamlined,
powerful, and robust. For instance, it could be useful for scaling purposes to reduce
Blackwell et al.’s (2007) incremental theory intervention to fewer workshop ses-
sions. But the process of reducing this intervention would require experimental
work to identify the theoretically critical elements, potentially resulting in both
new insights about basic psychological processes and a better intervention.
Second, when interventions are tested on broad samples, important boundary
conditions will likely be discovered. It could be that for some students or in some
conditions the suite of interventions reviewed in Table 1 might be ineffective.
When contextual experts collaborate on these projects and see these results, they
may think of other psychological processes that were not addressed—most likely,
at Stanford University Libraries on June 7, 2011http://rer.aera.netDownloaded from
Social-Psychological Interventions in Education
processes that psychologists did not anticipate. This could lead to new experiments
investigating these processes, new theories, and new interventions. Indeed, an
important source of theory in the social sciences is the attempt to explain failed
interventions (see, e.g., the discussion of McCord, 1978, in Ross & Nisbett, 1991).
This interplay of theory, research, and application would benefit both psychologi-
cal science and the solution of social problems.
In sum, psychological interventions may be scaled most effectively when
researchers and practitioners combine requisite theoretical and contextual exper-
tise. Existing organizations provide guidance for how to do this, but this process
may also be expedited by the creation of new roles within the field of education.
We anticipate that such efforts will benefit both basic psychological theory and
student outcomes.
Social-psychological interventions are not magic. They are not inputs that go
into a black box and automatically yield positive results. Instead, they are tools to
target important psychological processes in schools. These interventions grew out
of basic laboratory research and theory investigating these processes. They have
produced long-lasting gains in achievement in multiple studies, but they are
dependent on the capacities, meanings, and recursive processes present in local
contexts. If scaled up in appropriate ways, social-psychological interventions have
the potential to contribute, in conjunction with other reforms, to the solution of
endemic problems in education.
Nevertheless, because social-psychological interventions rely on subtle, non-
obvious forces, they can lead to polarized reactions—either “uncritical acceptance
and overgeneralization on one hand; [or] vilifying criticism on the other” (Jussim
& Harber, 2005, p. 135; also see Wineburg, 1987; cf. Gawande, 2009). By under-
standing the mechanisms underlying the effects of social-psychological interven-
tions, we hope that educational researchers can move past such reactions.
Social-psychological interventions complement—and do not replace—traditional
educational reforms. They do not teach students academic content or skills,
restructure schools, or improve teacher training. Instead, they allow students to
take better advantage of learning opportunities that are present in schools and tap
into existing recursive processes to generate long-lasting effects. Just at it would
be absurd to replace skilled surgeons with Gawande’s (2009) one-page checklist,
it would be absurd to replace traditional educational reforms with social-psycho-
logical interventions. Instead, as a surgical checklist allows a trained doctor to
perform as well as he or she is capable, social-psychological interventions can
unleash the potential of students and of the educational environments in which
they learn. Indeed, social-psychological interventions may make the effects of
high-quality educational reforms such as improved instruction or curricula more
apparent (Cohen et al., 2009).
Although we are optimistic that social-psychological interventions can be taken
to scale, doing so will require hard work. These are not quick fixes that can be
administered broadly without consideration for local contexts or the meaning stu-
dents make of them. They will benefit from an R&D model that incorporates
authentic collaborations between researchers and contextual experts and rigorous
at Stanford University Libraries on June 7, 2011http://rer.aera.netDownloaded from
Yeager & Walton
evaluation at each step (Bryk, 2009; Bryk et al., in press; Morris & Hiebert, 2011).
But in a context in which many reforms in education have produced at best uneven
results, psychological interventions have a demonstrated potential to address fun-
damental problems, including low student achievement and large group differ-
ences, at low cost and over significant periods of time. We look forward to future
research that includes psychological strategies in the broader suite of reforms to
promote positive change in education.
The writing of this article was supported by a Spencer Foundation Dissertation
Fellowship for Research Related to Education and a grant from the Thrive Foundation
for Youth, both to the first author. We are grateful to Tony Bryk, Geoff Cohen, Carol
Dweck, Hunter Gehlbach, Matthew Kloser, Richard Shavelson, David Sherman, James
Stigler, Sander Thomaes, and Uri Treisman for their comments, to Alexandria Ordway
for her original research on the California Mission Project, and to Brian Spitzer for his
1Although analogies can mislead if taken too far, they can also be helpful for under-
standing new ideas in science and, in particular in this case, for understanding how
multiple variables relate (Duit, 1991; Kuhn, 1979; Thibodeau, & Boroditsky, 2011).
2Poor academic achievement is not the only social problem that social-psychologi-
cal interventions can address, even in the presence of structural impediments (for an
overview, see Reis & Gosling, 2010). Among other social problems, brief social-psy-
chological interventions can have lasting effects on the health of the elderly (Langer &
Rodin, 1976; Rodin & Langer, 1977) and of college students (Pennebaker, 1997;
Pennebaker & Beall, 1986), the success of dieters (Axsom & Cooper, 1985; Logel &
Cohen, 2011), environmental conservation (Goldstein, Cialdini, & Griskevicius,
2008), youth aggression (Hudley & Graham, 1993; Thomaes, Bushman, Orobio de
Castro, Cohen, & Denissen, 2009; Yeager, Trzesniewski, & Dweck, 2011), and inter-
group relations (e.g., Page-Gould, Mendoza-Denton, & Tropp, 2008; Paluck, 2009; cf.
Paluck, 2010).
Aaronovitch, D. (2010, January 23). In a world of hi-tech medicine and machinery, the
best safeguard is the low-tech checklist. The Times. Retrieved from http://entertainment
6995508 .ece
Aronson, E. (1999). The power of self-persuasion. American Psychologist, 54,
Aronson, E., Blaney, N., Stephin, C., Sikes, J., & Snapp, M. (1978). The jigsaw class-
room. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.
Aronson, J., Fried, C., & Good, C. (2002). Reducing the effects of stereotype threat on
African American college students by shaping theories of intelligence. Journal of
Experimental Social Psychology, 38, 113–125.
Axsom, D., & Cooper, J. (1985). Cognitive dissonance and psychotherapy: The role of
effort justification in inducing weight loss. Journal of Experimental Social
Psychology, 21, 149–160.
Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: Toward a unifying theory of behavioral change.
Psychological Review, 84, 191–215.
at Stanford University Libraries on June 7, 2011http://rer.aera.netDownloaded from
Social-Psychological Interventions in Education
Blackwell, L. A., Trzesniewski, K. H., & Dweck, C. S. (2007). Theories of intelligence
and achievement across the junior high school transition: A longitudinal study and
an intervention. Child Development, 78, 246–263.
Bransford, J., Brown, A., & Cocking, R. (1999). How people learn: Brain, mind, expe-
rience, school. Washington, DC: National Academy of Sciences.
Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). The ecology of human development: Experiments by nature
and design. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Bryk, A. S. (2009). Support a science of performance improvement. Phi Delta Kappan,
90, 597–600.
Bryk, A. S., Gomez, L., & Grunow, A. (in press). Ruminations II—Getting ideas into
action: Building networked improvement communities in education. In M. Hallinan
(Ed.), Frontiers of social science research.
Bryk, A. S., & Schneider, B. L. (2002). Trust in schools: A core resource for improve-
ment. New York, NY: Russell Sage.
Bryk, A. S., Sebring, P. B., Allensworth, E., Luppescu, S., & Easton, J. Q. (2010).
Organizing schools for improvement: Lessons from Chicago. Chicago, IL: University
of Chicago Press.
Charles A. Dana Center. (2008). Summary of results from the 2008 evaluation con-
ducted on academic youth development: Improving achievement by shaping the cul-
ture of algebra classrooms. Retrieved from
Chase, C. S., Chin, D. B., Oppezzo, M. A., & Schwartz, D. L. (2009). Teachable agents
and the protégé effect: Increasing the effort towards learning. Journal of Science and
Educational Technology, 18, 334–352.
Checkley, K. (2008). The essentials of social studies, grades K–8: Effective curricu-
lum, instruction, and assessment. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and
Curriculum Development.
Cialdini, R. B. (2003). Crafting normative messages to protect the environment.
Current Directions in Psychological Science, 12, 105–109.
Cohen, G. L., Garcia, J., Apfel, N., & Master, A. (2006). Reducing the racial achieve-
ment gap: A social-psychological intervention. Science, 313, 1307–1310.
Cohen, G. L., Garcia, J., Purdie-Vaugns, V., Apfel, N., & Brzustoski, P. (2009).
Recursive processes in self-affirmation: Intervening to close the minority achieve-
ment gap. Science, 324, 400–403.
Cook, J., Purdie-Vaughns, V., Garcia, J., & Cohen, G. (2011, April). Longitudinal
impact of a values affirmation and its timing on minority students’ belonging and
performance in middle school. Presentation at the biennial meeting for the Society
for Research in Child Development, Montreal, Canada.
Crosnoe, R., Lopez-Gonzalez, L., & Muller, C. (2004). Immigration from Mexico into
the math/science pipeline in American education. Social Science Quarterly, 85,
Destin, M., & Oyserman, D. (2009). From assets to school outcomes: How finances
shape children’s perceived possibilities and intentions. Psychological Science, 20,
Donovan, M. S., Wigdor, A. K., & Snow, C. E. (Eds.). (2003). Strategic education
research partnership. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
Drawings aid school studies. (1931, October 25). Oakland Tribune, p. B5.
Duckworth, A. L., Grant, H., Loew, B., Oettingen, G., & Gollwitzer, P. M. (in press).
Self-regulation strategies improve self-discipline in adolescents: Benefits of mental
contrasting and implementation intentions. Educational Psychology.
at Stanford University Libraries on June 7, 2011http://rer.aera.netDownloaded from
Yeager & Walton
Duit, R. (1991). On the role of analogies and metaphors in learning science. Science
Education, 75, 649–660.
Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset. New York, NY: Random House.
Dweck, C. S., & Leggett, E. L. (1988). A social-cognitive approach to motivation and
personality. Psychological Review, 95, 256–273.
Festinger, L. (1957). A theory of cognitive dissonance. Evanston, IL: Row, Peterson.
Fullan, M. (2001). The new meaning of educational change. New York, NY: Teachers
College Press.
Garcia, J., & Cohen, G. L. (in press). Social psychology and educational intervention.
In E. Shafir (Ed.), Behavioral foundations of policy. New York, NY: Russell Sage.
Garet, M., Wayne, A., Stancavage, F., Taylor, J., Walters, K., Song, M., & . . . Doolittle, F.
(2010). Middle School Mathematics Professional Development Impact Study:
Findings after the first year of implementation (NCEE 2010–4010). Retrieved from
Gawande, A. (2009). The checklist manifesto: How to get things right. New York, NY:
Metropolitan Books.
Gehlbach, H. (2010). The social side of school: Why teachers need social psychology.
Educational Psychology Review, 22, 349–362.
Glazerman, S., Isenberg, E., Dolfin, S., Bleeker, M., Johnson, A., Grider, M., &
Jacobus, M. (2010). Impacts of comprehensive teacher induction: Final results from
a randomized controlled study (NCEE 2010 4028). Retrieved from
Godes, O., Hulleman, C. S., & Harackiewicz, J. M. (2007, April). Boosting students’
interest in math with utility value: Two experimental tests. Paper presented at the
meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, IL.
Goldstein, N., Cialdini, R., & Griskevicius, V. (2008). A room with a viewpoint: Using
social norms to motivate environmental conservation in hotels. Journal of Consumer
Research, 35, 472–482.
Good, C., Aronson, J., & Inzlicht, M. (2003). Improving adolescents’ standardized test
performance: An intervention to reduce the effects of stereotype threat. Journal of
Applied Developmental Psychology, 24, 645–662.
Greenwald, A. G. (1980). The totalitarian ego: Fabrication and revision of personal
history. American Psychologist, 35, 603–618.
Haessler, J. (1973, April 5). Fourth grade class to build scale model of San Antonio
mission in EDH. Mountain Democrat.
Hallinan, M. (2001). Sociological perspectives on Black/White inequalities in
American schooling. Sociology of Education, Extra Issue, 74, 50–70.
Haynes, A. B., Weiser, T. G., Lipsitz, S. R., Breizat, A-H., Dellinger, E. P., Herbosa, T.,
Joseph, S., Kibatala, P. L., Lapitan, M. C. M., Merry, A. F., Moorthy, K., Reznick, R. K.,
Taylor, B., Gawande, A. A. (2009). A surgical safety checklist to reduce morbidity and
mortality in a global population. The New England Journal of Medicine, 360, 491–499.
Haynes, T. L., Perry, R. P., Stupnisky, R. H., & Daniels, L. M. (2009). A review of
attributional retraining treatments: Fostering engagement and persistence in vulner-
able college students. In Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research
(pp. 227–271). The Netherlands: Springer.
Hudley, C., & Graham, S. (1993). An attributional intervention to reduce peer-directed
aggression among African-American boys. Child Development, 64, 124–138.
Hulleman, C. S., & Cordray, D. S. (2009). Moving from the lab to the field: The role
of fidelity and achieved relative intervention strength. Journal of Research on
Educational Effectiveness, 2, 88–110.
at Stanford University Libraries on June 7, 2011http://rer.aera.netDownloaded from
Social-Psychological Interventions in Education
Hulleman, C. S., & Harackiewicz, J. M. (2009). Making education relevant: Increasing
interest and performance in high school science classes. Science, 326, 1410–1412.
James-Burdumy, S., Deke, J., Lugo-Gil, J., Carey, N., Hershey, A., Gersten, R., . . .
Faddis, B. (2010). Effectiveness of selected supplemental reading comprehension
interventions: Findings from two student cohorts (NCEE 2010–4016). Retrieved
Jamieson, J., Mendes, W. B., Blackstock, E., & Schmader, T. (2009). Turning the knots
in your stomach into bows: Reappraising arousal improves performance on the
GRE. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 46, 208–212.
Jussim, L., & Harber, K. D. (2005). Teacher expectations and self-fulfilling prophecies:
Knowns and unknowns, resolved and unresolved controversies. Personality and
Social Psychology Review, 9, 131–155.
Kelley, H. H. (1973). The process of causal attribution. American Psychologist, 28,
Kuhn, T. S. (1979). Metaphor in science. In A. Ortony (Ed.), Metaphor and thought
(2nd ed., pp. 403–419). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.
Kulesza, M., Apperson, M., Larimer, M. E., & Copeland, A. L. (2010). Brief alcohol
intervention for college drinkers: How brief is it? Addictive Behaviors, 35, 730–733.
Labaree, D. F. (1998). Educational researchers: Living with a lesser form of knowl-
edge. Educational Researcher, 27, 4–12.
Langer, E. J., & Rodin, J. (1976). The effects of choice and enhanced personal respon-
sibility for the aged: A field experiment in an institutional setting. Journal of
Personality and Social Psychology, 34, 191–198.
Lewin, K. (1952). Group decision and social change. In G. E. Swanson, T. M.
Newcomb, & E. L. Hartley (Eds.), Readings in social psychology (2nd ed., pp. 330–
344). New York, NY: Holt.
Logel, C., & Cohen, G. L. (2011). The role of the self in physical health: Testing the
effect of a values affirmation intervention on weight loss. Unpublished manuscript,
Stanford University, Stanford, CA.
Marigold, D. C., Holmes, J. G., & Ross, M. (2007). More than words: Reframing com-
pliments from romantic partners fosters security in low self-esteem individuals.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92, 232–248.
Martens, A., Johns, M., Greenberg, J., & Schimel, J. (2006). Combating stereotype
threat: The effect of self-affirmation on women’s intellectual performance. Journal
of Experimental Social Psychology, 42, 236–243.
McCord, J. (1978). A thirty-year follow-up of treatment effects. American Psychologist,
33, 284–289.
Mendoza-Denton, R., Purdie, V., Downey, G., Davis, A., & Pietrzak, J. (2002).
Sensitivity to status-based rejection: Implications for African-American students’
college experience. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83, 896–918.
Miller, D. T., & Prentice, D. A. (in press). Psychological levers of behavior change. In
E. Shafir (Ed.), Behavioral foundations of policy. New York, NY: Russell Sage.
Miyake, A., Kost-Smoth, L. E., Finkelstein, N. D., Pollock, S. J., Cohen, G. L., & Ito, A.
(2010). Reducing the gender achievement gap in college science: A classroom study
of values affirmation. Science, 330, 1234–1237.
Molden, D. C., & Dweck, C. S. (2006). Finding “meaning” in psychology: A lay theo-
ries approach to self-regulation, social perception, and social development. American
Psychologist, 61, 192–203.
Morisano, D., Hirsh, J. B., Peterson, J. B., Pihl, R. O., & Shore, B. (2010). Setting,
elaborating, and reflecting on personal goals improves academic performance.
Journal of Applied Psychology, 95, 255–264.
at Stanford University Libraries on June 7, 2011http://rer.aera.netDownloaded from
Yeager & Walton
Morris, A. K., & Hiebert, J. (2011). Creating shared instructional products: An alterna-
tive approach to improving teaching. Educational Researcher, 40, 5–13.
Mueller, C. M., & Dweck, C. S. (1998). Praise for intelligence can undermine chil-
dren’s motivation and performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,
75, 33–52.
National Writing Project. (2010). Research brief no. 2. Retrieved from http://www
Nussbaum, A. D., & Dweck, C. S. (2008). Defensiveness vs. remediation: Self-theories
and modes of self-esteem maintenance. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin,
34, 127–134.
Oyserman, D., Bybee, D., & Terry, K. (2006). Possible selves and academic outcomes:
How and when possible selves impel action. Journal of Personality and Social
Psychology, 91, 188–204.
Page-Gould, E., Mendoza-Denton, R., & Tropp, L. R. (2008). With a little help from
my cross-group friend: Reducing anxiety in intergroup contexts through cross-group
friendship. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95, 1080–1094.
Paluck, E. L. (2009). Reducing intergroup prejudice and conflict using the media: A
field experiment in Rwanda. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 96,
Paluck, E. L. (2010). Is it better not to talk? Group polarization, extended contact, and
perspective-taking in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Personality and Social
Psychology Bulletin, 36, 1170–1185.
Papay, J., Murnane, R., & Willett, J. (2010). The consequences of high school exit
examinations for low-performing urban students: Evidence from Massachusetts.
Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 32, 5–23.
Pennebaker, J. W. (1997). Opening up: The healing power of expressing emotion. New
York, NY: Guilford.
Pennebaker, J. W., & Beall, S. K. (1986). Confronting a traumatic event: Toward an
understanding of inhibition and disease. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 95, 274–
Petry, N. M., Weinstock, J., Ledgerwood, D. M., & Morasco, B. (2008). A randomized
trial of brief interventions for problem and pathological gamblers. Journal of
Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 76, 318–328.
Ramirez, G., & Beilock, S. (2011). Writing about testing worries boosts exam perfor-
mance in the classroom. Science, 331, 211–213.
Raudenbush, S. (1984). Magnitude of teacher expectancy effects on pupil IQ as a func-
tion of the credibility of expectancy induction: A synthesis of findings from 18
experiments. Journal of Educational Psychology, 76, 85–97.
Reis, H. T., & Gosling, S. D. (2010). Social psychological methods outside the labora-
tory. In S. T. Fiske, D. T. Gilbert, & G. Lindzey (Eds.), Handbook of social psychol-
ogy (5th ed., Vol. 1, pp. 82–114). New York, NY: John Wiley.
Ritter, S., Anderson, J. R., Koedinger, K. R., & Corbett, A. (2007). Cognitive tutor:
Applied research in mathematics education. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 14,
Robinson, T. N. (in press). Stealth interventions for obesity prevention and control:
Motivating behavior change. In L. Dube, A. Bechara, A. Dagher, A. Drewnowski,
J. LeBel, P. James, D. Richard, R. Denis, R. Yada. (Eds.), Obesity prevention: The
role of brain and society on individual behavior. New York, NY: Elsevier.
at Stanford University Libraries on June 7, 2011http://rer.aera.netDownloaded from
Social-Psychological Interventions in Education
Rodin, J., & Langer, E. J. (1977). Long-term effects of a control-relevant intervention
with the institutionalized aged. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 35,
Romero, C., Paunesku, D., & Dweck, C. (2011, April). Brainology in the classroom:
An online growth mindset intervention affects GPA, conduct, and implicit theories.
Poster presented at the biennial meeting for the Society for Research in Child
Development, Montreal, Canada.
Ross, L., & Nisbett, R. E. (1991). The person and the situation: Perspectives of social
psychology. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Rydell, R. J., Shiffrin, R. M., Boucher, K. L., Van Loo, K., & Rydell, M. T. (2010).
Stereotype threat prevents perceptual learning. Proceedings of the National Academy
of Science, 107, 14042–14047.
Schmader, T., Johns, M., & Forbes, C. (2008). An integrated process model of stereo-
type threat effects on performance. Psychological Review, 115, 336–356.
Schulz, R., & Hanusa, B. H. (1978). Long-term effects of control and predictability-
enhancing interventions: Findings and ethical issues. Journal of Personality and
Social Psychology, 36, 1194–1201.
Schwarz, N., Bless, H., Strack, F., Klumpp, G., Rittenauer-Schatka, H., & Simmons,
A. (1991). Ease of retrieval as information: Another look at the availability heuristic.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 61, 195–202.
Schwartz, D. L., & Martin, T. (2004). Inventing to prepare for learning: The hidden
efficiency of original student production in statistics instruction. Cognition &
Instruction, 22, 129–184.
Scott, J. C. (1998). Seeing like a state: How certain schemes to improve the human
condition have failed. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Sherman, D. K., & Cohen, G. L. (2006). The psychology of self-defense: Self-
affirmation theory. In M. P. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychol-
ogy (Vol. 38, pp. 183–242). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
Sherman, D. K., Cohen, G. L., Nelson, L. D., Nussbaum, A. D., Bunyan, D. P., & Garcia,
J. P. (2009). Affirmed yet unaware: Exploring the role of awareness in the process of
self-affirmation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 97, 745–764.
Sherman, D. K., & Hartson, K. A. (2011). Reconciling self-protection with self-
improvement: Self-affirmation theory. In M. Alicke & C. Sedikides (Eds.), The
Handbook of Self-Enhancement and Self-Protection. (pp. 128–151). New York, NY:
Guilford Press.
Sherman, D. K., Hartson, K. A., Binning, K. R., Purdie-Vaughns, V., Garcia, J.,
Taborsky-Barba, S., Tomassetti, S., Nussbaum, A. D., & Cohen, G. L. (2011). Self-
affirmation, identity threat, and academic performance: Understanding the effects of
a social psychological intervention. Manuscript in preparation.
Somers, M.-A., Corrin, W., Sepanik, S., Salinger, T., Levin, J., & Zmach, C. (2010).
The Enhanced Reading Opportunities Study final report: The impact of supplemen-
tal literacy courses for struggling ninth-grade readers (NCEE 2010–4022).
Retrieved from
Steele, C. (2010). Whistling Vivaldi: And other clues how stereotypes affect us. New
York, NY: Norton.
Steele, C. M. (1988). The psychology of self-affirmation: Sustaining the integrity
of the self. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology
(pp. 261–302). New York, NY: Academic Press.
Steele, C. M. (1997). A threat in the air: How stereotypes shape intellectual identity and
performance. American Psychologist, 52, 613–629.
at Stanford University Libraries on June 7, 2011http://rer.aera.netDownloaded from
Yeager & Walton
Steele, C. M., Spencer, S. J., & Aronson, J. (2002). Contending with group image: The
psychology of stereotype and social identity threat. In M. P. Zanna (Ed.), Advances
in experimental social psychology (Vol. 34, pp. 379–440). San Diego, CA: Academic
Storms, M. D., & Nisbett, R. E. (1970). Insomnia and the attribution process. Journal
of Personality and Social Psychology, 16, 319–328.
Szalavitz, M. (2009, January 14). Study: A simple surgery checklist saves lives. Time.
Retrieved from,8599,1871759,00.html
Taylor, V. J., & Walton, G. (in press). Stereotype threat undermines academic learning.
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.
Thibodeau, P. H., & Boroditsky, L. (2011). Metaphors we think with: The role of
metaphor in reasoning. PLoS ONE, 6(2), e16782. Retrieved from http://www
Thomaes, S., Bushman, B. J., Orobio de Castro, B., Cohen, G., & Denissen, J. A.
(2009). Reducing narcissistic aggression by buttressing self-esteem: An experimen-
tal field study. Psychological Science, 20, 1536–1542.
Tyack, D. B., & Cuban, L. (1995). Tinkering toward utopia: A century of public school
reform. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Vansteenkiste, M., Simons, J., Lens, W., Sheldon, K. M., & Deci, E. L. (2004).
Motivating learning, performance, and persistence: The synergistic role of intrinsic
goals and autonomy-support. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 87,
Walton, G. M., & Cohen, G. L. (2007). A question of belonging: Race, social fit, and
achievement. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92, 82–96.
Walton, G. M., & Cohen, G. L. (2011). A brief social-belonging intervention improves
academic and health outcomes among minority students. Science, 331, 1447–1451.
Walton, G. M., Cohen, G. L., Garcia, J., Apfel, N., & Master, A. (2011). A brief inter-
vention to buttress middle school students’ sense of social-belonging: Effects by race
and gender. Unpublished manuscript, Stanford University, Stanford, CA.
Walton, G. M., & Dweck, C. S. (2009). Solving social problems like a psychologist.
Perspectives on Psychological Science, 4, 101–102.
Walton, G. M., Logel, C., Peach, J., & Spencer, S. (2011). Two interventions to boost
women’s achievement in engineering: Social-belonging and self-affirmation-
training. Unpublished manuscript, Stanford University, Stanford, CA.
Walton, G. M., & Spencer, S. J. (2009). Latent ability: Grades and test scores system-
atically underestimate the intellectual ability of negatively stereotyped students.
Psychological Science, 20, 1132–1139.
Weiner, B. (1986). An attributional theory of emotion and motivation, New York, NY:
Wilson, T. D. (2006). The power of social psychological interventions. Science, 313,
Wilson, T. D., Damiani, M., & Shelton, N. (2002). Improving the academic perfor-
mance of college students with brief attributional interventions. In J. Aronson (Ed.),
Improving academic achievement: Impact of psychological factors on education
(pp. 88–108). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
Wilson, T. D., & Linville, P. W. (1982). Improving the academic performance of col-
lege freshmen: Attribution therapy revisited. Journal of Personality and Social
Psychology, 42, 367–376.
at Stanford University Libraries on June 7, 2011http://rer.aera.netDownloaded from
Social-Psychological Interventions in Education
Wilson, T. D., & Linville, P. W. (1985). Improving the performance of college fresh-
men with attributional techniques. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,
49, 287–293.
Wineburg, S. S. (1987). The self-fulfillment of the self-fulfilling prophecy. Educational
Researcher, 16, 28–37.
Yeager, D. S., Trzesniewski, K., & Dweck, C. S. (2011). An implicit theories intervention
changes aggressive and prosocial responses to peer exclusion and victimization
among high school students. Unpublished manuscript, Stanford University, Stanford,
DAVID S. YEAGER is a Ph.D. candidate in the Stanford University School of Education,
Developmental and Psychological Sciences, 271 Jordan Hall, Stanford, CA 94107;
e-mail: He is supported by a dissertation writing fellowship from
the Spencer Foundation. His research focuses on social cognitive development, motiva-
tion, adolescence, research methodology, and psychological interventions.
GREGORY M. WALTON is an assistant professor in the Social Psychology area of the
Stanford University Department of Psychology; e-mail: His
research focuses on self and identity, stereotypes, motivation and achievement, and social
at Stanford University Libraries on June 7, 2011http://rer.aera.netDownloaded from
... Research also demonstrates that mindset is scalable...something that can be taught and implemented within the classroom with measurable impacts (Blackwell et al., 2007;Good, et al., 2003;Paunesku et al., 2015;Yeager & Walton, 2011). People have tremendous potential to acquire new knowledge, develop new skills, and improve their brains throughout their lives and applying effective learning strategies enhances this process (Green & Bavelier, 2010;McLaughlin et al., 2018). ...
... When educators model and teach effective learning strategies, students experience academic gains, which in turn support the process of sustaining a growth mindset to persist even through progressively more difficult learning tasks (Hattie & Anderman, 2020;Murphy et al., 2015;Yeager & Walton, 2011). Research has demonstrated that mindset influences resilience in academic challenges (Blackwell et al., 2007;Reinberg, 2001;Yeager & Dweck, 2012). ...
... There are neurological underpinnings to mindset, which show that our beliefs can physically change our brain networks (Boaler, 2013;Murphy et al., 2015;Yeager & Walton, 2011). Teaching about mindset can increase motivation, improve self-regulated learning, reduce anxiety when learning, improve academic performance, and increase enjoyment in learning (Dweck & Legget, 1988;Dweck, 2006;Hattie & Anderman, 2020). ...
Full-text available
The purpose of this article is to introduce a comprehensive instructional model that takes into consideration three frameworks for designing instruction (Universal Design for Learning, Understanding by Design, and the 7E Learning Cycle) and incorporates Technological Pedagogical and Content Knowledge and Mindset (attitudes, beliefs, dispositions toward teaching and learning) that serves to advance STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) instruction with pre-service teachers. The proposed model will be used in teaching pre-service prek-12 teachers in the following courses: Mathematics Methods, Science Methods, Human Development and Learning Theory, and Classroom Management. It explores how the frameworks, TPaCK, and Mindset can be integrated to form a holistic and interdisciplinary model for designing instruction, particularly in STEM courses. Each framework has a different focus, which is discussed, along with how TPaCK and Mindset can influence how one uses the framework to design instruction. Among these frameworks, there exists a convergence of pedagogy, instructional design, planning, and strategic use of technology that provides an opportunity for a holistic, interdisciplinary approach to designing instruction that serves both teacher and student: teachers in becoming more effective instructors, and students in becoming more effective learners. A brief review of each framework, TPaCK and Mindset is included as well as the description of The Oswald-Gentile Model of Instruction, a holistic approach to designing instruction that takes into consideration both the learner and the teacher.
... Such methods include neurostimulation, neurofeedback, and neuroscience-informed intervention (Bestmann and Feredoes 2013). Given education, including moral education, is primarily concerned with how to promote one's development and growth through educational activities (Yeager and Walton 2011), it would be important to address the causality issue if we intend to learn from neuroscience for improving education. Thus, overviewing findings from such experimental studies may provide us with useful insights about mechanisms associated with learning and development, which are fundamental in educational research (see the "results from experimental studies" section in the supplementary materials for more information). ...
... Such methods include the neurostimulation, neurofeedback, and neuroscienceinformed intervention (Bestmann and Feredoes 2013). Given education, including moral education, is primarily concerned about how to promote one's development and growth through educational activities (Yeager and Walton 2011), it would be important to address the causality issue if we intend to learn from neuroscience for improving education. Thus, overviewing findings from such experimental studies may provide us with useful insights about mechanisms associated with learning and development, which are fundamental in educational research. ...
Full-text available
In this paper, findings from research in neuroscience of morality will be reviewed to consider the purposes of moral education. Particularly, I will focus on two main themes in neuroscience, novel neuroimaging and experimental investigations, and Bayesian learning mechanism. First, I will examine how neuroimaging and experimental studies contributed to our understanding of psychological mechanisms associated with moral functioning while addressing methodological concerns. Second, Bayesian learning mechanism will be introduced to acquire insights about how moral learning occurs in human brains. Based on the reviewed neuroscientific research on morality, I will examine how evidence can support the model of moral education proposed by virtue ethics, Neo-Aristotelian moral philosophy in particular. Particularly, two main aims of virtue ethics-based moral education, the habituation of virtues and the cultivation of phronesis, will be discussed as the important purposes of moral education based on neuroscientific evidence.
... To better understand why some students are more likely to leave STEM than others, researchers have turned to the social-psychological experiences of college students (Yeager & Walton, 2011), in particular their sense of belonging. Belonging relates to the degree to which a person feels valued and included. ...
... Values affirmation is a social belonging intervention that has been shown to improve students' learning, particularly students from minoritized groups (Yeager & Walton, 2011;Kizilcec et al., 2017). The self-affirming ice breaker adapts this intervention into an asynchronous format. ...
Full-text available
Online classes hold the potential to expand college access to Black, Latino/a/x, Indigenous, and other students of color who must be supported to diversify the STEM workforce. Research shows that fostering belonging is key to the academic success of students from minoritized groups. However, online classes often lack interpersonal interactions and are often left out of research about the positive impacts of belonging. This paper summarizes an equity-focused STEM grant project that produced an openly-shared online professional development program, the Humanizing Online STEM Academy. Through the Academy, STEM faculty are introduced to a model of humanized online teaching that centers belonging as a way to address equity gaps. Participant survey responses present opportunities for future research about belonging in online courses. Download full article (free) at
... The good news is that students' motivation and engagement are activated and enhanced when the classroom context is designed to foster and support them. Unlike cognitive fac tors like intelligence that explain a good portion of students' success in school (e.g., Deary et al., 2007;Gottfredson, 2004) but are not easily influenced, motivation and en gagement are influenced by the educational environment and interventions intended to enhance students' success in school (e.g., Lazowski & Hulleman, 2016;Yeager & Walton, 2011). Students come to school equipped with a variety of motivational resources, natu rally seeking opportunities to explore their interests and live out their values, pursue goals and develop competence, and connect with other people (e.g., Reeve, 2009). ...
Supporting students’ motivation constitutes a critical challenge in most classrooms. However, research suggests that motivation and engagement are activated, enhanced, and sustained when the classroom context is designed to foster and support them. This chapter provides an overview of classroom practices that can be integrated into instruction in order to support students’ adaptive motivation, emotion, and engagement, and, in turn, their learning and achievement. We focus on five major forms of adaptive motivation and the corresponding evidence-based strategies that support each. Specifically, we discuss support for (a) perceived competence; (b) autonomy and autonomous (vs. controlled) motivation; (c) interest and value; (d) growth (vs. fixed) mindsets, adaptive causal attributions, and mastery (vs. performance) goals; and (e) feelings of relatedness and belonging. As part of our discussion, we briefly introduce relevant theories for understanding the function of these critical forms of motivation and highlight factors (e.g., student characteristics, context, variations in the practice) and areas of caution to consider in order to maximize effectiveness. We end this chapter by noting several themes and issues for education researchers, practitioners, and policy-makers to consider.
... This monitoring could be accompanied by preventative measures. For example, previous research shows that focussing on self-regulation skills, such as grit and academic buoyancy, as well as on social skills, such as negotiation and resolving conflicts, can help adolescents to handle academic stress and prevent feelings of school burnout 68,69 . ...
Full-text available
During school closures throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, less support from peers and teachers may have required more autonomous motivation from adolescents. Little is known about factors that could shield against these negative effects. Driven by two influential motivational theories, we examined how mindset, feelings of school burnout and the three basic psychological needs of the self-determination theory, could predict changes in autonomous motivation when controlling for pre-pandemic levels of motivation. The results from a sample of Dutch adolescents (Mage = 14.63 years) and their parents (Mage = 48.65 years) showed that endorsing a growth mindset was positively associated with autonomous motivation during the school closures, while feelings of school burnout were negatively associated with autonomous motivation. Additionally, perceived parental autonomy support (i.e. a measure of the basic psychological need of autonomy) related to more autonomous motivation during home-based learning. Our findings highlight the personal and family factors that influence how adolescents respond to home-based learning and suggest ways to keep adolescents motivated and diminish possible negative consequences during future home-based learning situations.
Research on the growth mindset interventions (GMIs) on nonacademic outcomes is burgeoning. The present systematic review aims to evaluate the effects of GMIs on social–emotional outcomes among school-aged children and adolescents. Using the PRIMSA guidelines, our search across three electronic databases (PsycINFO, ERIC, and PubMed) yielded an initial identification of 1057 records. Inclusion criteria include publication format, language, participant age range, and intervention purpose, focus and components. Risk of bias was analyzed at the study level using a list of research quality indicators and across studies by comparing nonpeer reviewed versus peer reviewed publications. Our final sample yielded 13 papers including 14 studies. The findings from these studies were extracted to examine research quality, sample characteristics, intervention content, and intervention effects of the GMIs. Results showed despite that study quality, samples, and intervention designs varied, core components of the interventions were highly similar. Intervention effect results suggest that mindsets can be changed toward a growth orientation through brief GMIs, and effectiveness of GMIs on social-emotional outcomes is promising, especially in reducing depressive symptoms and aggressive reactions to perceived social exclusion. Research gaps and future directions, and implications for school psychologists and other mental health professionals are discussed. Impact Statement This is the first study to review growth mindset interventions that target social-emotional outcomes among school-aged children and adolescents. Reviews such as this are important for researchers, school psychologists and other mental health professionals, alike. For mindset researchers, it helps in conducting future empirical studies by considering empirical and methodological implications from previous intervention studies. For practitioners, it may help to design mindset interventions in more cost-effective ways that enable them to be integrated into school-based mental health prevention or intervention programs. Generally, such interventions are effective in changing youth mindset toward a growth orientation. Evidence suggests that such interventions help ameliorate depression from getting worse and reducing aggression when adolescents experience elevated social stress. Overall, growth mindset interventions show promise in improving social-emotional outcomes and cost-efficiency, especially in school settings.
Collaboration between developers and contractors is pivotal to the efficient completion of construction projects. Relational contracting practice has been used to promote working partnerships. Construction incentivization can be a valuable contractual tool to build relationships. This study proposes that incentivization can serve as an instrumental means to forge interorganizational relationships and corresponding project performance improvements. With data collected from experienced construction professionals, the hypotheses are empirically supported by structural equation modeling. It is therefore concluded that in addition to its conventional uses, incentivization can be innovatively designed to develop and manage interorganizational relationships and engender project performance improvement.
Unlike conventional understanding of testing that only diagnoses the existing knowledge of the learners, testing has been found to promote learning by providing feedback to the learners. However, it has been found that the testing effect varies from person to person—it has negative consequences for some, while it enhances learning for others. Since the holders of different implicit theories interpret feedback of failure on their performances differently, it is hypothesized that the incremental theory holders will benefit more from testing than the entity theory holders. The current research examines the effect of implicit theories on the feedback of failure on a test. In this study, 2 (implicit theories: entity vs. incremental) × 2 (condition: testing vs. read-only) × 2 (nature of word pairs: related vs. unrelated) mixed subject design, repeated on the last two factors, was deployed. Findings of the study show that learning is better in the testing condition than in the read-only condition, even if the participants’ responses are incorrect earlier. Further, the incremental theory holders performed better at the final test than the entity theory holders. These findings show the role of testing and implicit theories in learning.
Aim This study sought to identify the impact of a maths intervention aimed at enhancing performance, self-concept and self-regulation, while reducing negative emotional responses. Method A quantitative, between-group repeated-measure experimental design was used to investigate differences between the groups over time. One-hundred-and-forty-four Year 4 pupils (mean age 8.09 years) from eight schools were matched and randomly allocated to intervention or waiting-list control groups. Trained Teaching Assistants delivered the intervention in small groups for four weeks. Performance, self-regulation, self-concept and anxiety in maths were measured pre- and post-intervention. Findings Mixed ANOVA found a significant difference in maths performance and in the strategising and focusing sub-behaviours of self-regulation. No significant differences in maths anxiety and self-concept were established, although exploratory investigation identified a significant impact on males’ maths self-concept. Limitations The placebo effect, variable delivery, alongside appropriate maths anxiety and self-regulation measures in this age group, potentially influenced the results. Conclusions The intervention indicates promising results with respect to maths performance; however further refinements of the affective elements are proposed. The negative relationship between maths self-concept and anxiety is discussed and practice implications are highlighted.
Full-text available
In this chapter a theory of motivation and emotion developed from an attributional perspective is presented. Before undertaking this central task, it might be beneficial to review the progression of the book. In Chapter 1 it was suggested that causal attributions have been prevalent throughout history and in disparate cultures. Studies reviewed in Chapter 2 revealed a large number of causal ascriptions within motivational domains, and different ascriptions in disparate domains. Yet some attributions, particularly ability and effort in the achievement area, dominate causal thinking. To compare and contrast causes such as ability and effort, their common denominators or shared properties were identified. Three causal dimensions, examined in Chapter 3, are locus, stability, and controllability, with intentionality and globality as other possible causal properties. As documented in Chapter 4, the perceived stability of a cause influences the subjective probability of success following a previous success or failure; causes perceived as enduring increase the certainty that the prior outcome will be repeated in the future. And all the causal dimensions, as well as the outcome of an activity and specific causes, influence the emotions experienced after attainment or nonattainment of a goal. The affects linked to causal dimensions include pride (with locus), hopelessness and resignation (with stability), and anger, gratitude, guilt, pity, and shame (with controllability).
Examined the long-term effects of participating in a field experiment on the effects of control and predictability-enhancing interventions. 40 retirement home residents who had initially benefited from being exposed to a specific positive predictable or controllable event (visits by college students) were assessed at 3 different intervals after the study was terminated. Health and psychological status data collected 24, 30, and 42 mo after the study indicated no positive long-term effects attributable to the interventions. In fact, groups that had initially benefited from the interventions exhibited precipitous declines once the study was terminated, whereas groups that had not benefited remained stable over time. Theoretical and ethical implications are discussed. (11 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).
Presents an integrative theoretical framework to explain and to predict psychological changes achieved by different modes of treatment. This theory states that psychological procedures, whatever their form, alter the level and strength of self-efficacy. It is hypothesized that expectations of personal efficacy determine whether coping behavior will be initiated, how much effort will be expended, and how long it will be sustained in the face of obstacles and aversive experiences. Persistence in activities that are subjectively threatening but in fact relatively safe produces, through experiences of mastery, further enhancement of self-efficacy and corresponding reductions in defensive behavior. In the proposed model, expectations of personal efficacy are derived from 4 principal sources of information: performance accomplishments, vicarious experience, verbal persuasion, and physiological states. Factors influencing the cognitive processing of efficacy information arise from enactive, vicarious, exhortative, and emotive sources. The differential power of diverse therapeutic procedures is analyzed in terms of the postulated cognitive mechanism of operation. Findings are reported from microanalyses of enactive, vicarious, and emotive modes of treatment that support the hypothesized relationship between perceived self-efficacy and behavioral changes. (21/2 p ref)
Today we find ourselves in possession of stupendous know-how, which we willingly place in the hands of the most highly skilled people. But avoidable failures are common, and the reason is simple: the volume and complexity of our knowledge has exceeded our ability to consistently deliver it - correctly, safely or efficiently. In this groundbreaking book, Atul Gawande makes a compelling argument for the checklist, which he believes to be the most promising method available in surmounting failure. Whether you're following a recipe, investing millions of dollars in a company or building a skyscraper, the checklist is an essential tool in virtually every area of our lives, and Gawande explains how breaking down complex, high pressure tasks into small steps can radically improve everything from airline safety to heart surgery survival rates. Fascinating and enlightening, The Checklist Manifesto shows how the simplest of ideas could transform how we operate in almost any field.
The acclaimed social psychologist offers an insider’s look at his research and groundbreaking findings on stereotypes and identity.Claude M. Steele, who has been called “one of the few great social psychologists,” offers a vivid first-person account of the research that supports his groundbreaking conclusions on stereotypes and identity. He sheds new light on American social phenomena from racial and gender gaps in test scores to the belief in the superior athletic prowess of black men, and lays out a plan for mitigating these “stereotype threats” and reshaping American identities.