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Mindsets That Promote Resilience: When Students Believe That Personal Characteristics Can Be Developed


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Because challenges are ubiquitous, resilience is essential for success in school and in life. In this article we review research demonstrating the impact of students’ mindsets on their resilience in the face of academic and social challenges. We show that students who believe (or are taught) that intellectual abilities are qualities that can be developed (as opposed to qualities that are fixed) tend to show higher achievement across challenging school transitions and greater course completion rates in challenging math courses. New research also shows that believing (or being taught) that social attributes can be developed can lower adolescents’ aggression and stress in response to peer victimization or exclusion, and result in enhanced school performance. We conclude by discussing why psychological interventions that change students’ mindsets are effective and what educators can do to foster these mindsets and create resilience in educational settings.
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EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGIST, 47(4), 302–314, 2012
Copyright C
Division 15, American Psychological Association
ISSN: 0046-1520 print / 1532-6985 online
DOI: 10.1080/00461520.2012.722805
Mindsets That Promote Resilience:
When Students Believe That Personal
Characteristics Can Be Developed
David Scott Yeager
Department of Psychology
University of Texas at Austin
Carol S. Dweck
Department of Psychology
Stanford University
Because challenges are ubiquitous, resilience is essential for success in school and in life.
In this article we review research demonstrating the impact of students’ mindsets on their
resilience in the face of academic and social challenges. We show that students who believe
(or are taught) that intellectual abilities are qualities that can be developed (as opposed to
qualities that are fixed) tend to show higher achievement across challenging school transitions
and greater course completion rates in challenging math courses. New research also shows
that believing (or being taught) that social attributes can be developed can lower adolescents’
aggression and stress in response to peer victimization or exclusion, and result in enhanced
school performance. We conclude by discussing why psychological interventions that change
students’ mindsets are effective and what educators can do to foster these mindsets and create
resilience in educational settings.
When students struggle with their schoolwork, what deter-
mines whether they give up or embrace the obstacle and
work to overcome it? And when students feel excluded or
victimized by peers, what determines whether they seek
revenge through aggression or seek more productive solu-
tions? Resilience—or whether students respond positively to
challenges—is crucial for success in school and in life. Yet
what causes it? And what can be done to increase it?
In this article we demonstrate the impact of students’
mindsets—or implicit theories about the malleability of hu-
man characteristics—on their academic and social resilience
(Dweck, 2006; Dweck, Chiu, & Hong, 1995). We show how
mindsets can contribute to two of the most important is-
sues currently facing educators: (a) academic underachieve-
ment and (b) the impact of peer exclusion and victimization.
Each of these problems is of great concern, yet each has
been frustratingly difficult to address. For example, many
of the large-scale interventions evaluated by the Institute of
Correspondence should be addressed to David Scott Yeager, Department
of Psychology, University of Texas at Austin, 108 E. Dean Keeton Stop
A8000, Austin, TX 78712-1043. E-mail:
Education Sciences in recent years have failed to produce
significant gains in achievement beyond the treatment pe-
riod (e.g., Garet et al., 2010; Glazerman et al., 2010; James-
Burdumy et al., 2010; Somers et al., 2010). Similarly, al-
though whole-school antibullying interventions consistently
reduceaggression among elementary school students, among
adolescents even large, well-implemented interventions fre-
quently have no effect (Karna et al., 2011; Silvia et al., 2011).
key resources. Yet we show that attention must also be paid
tothe psychologyunderlyingadolescents’resilient responses
to academic and social challenges.
Prominent in this underlying psychology are students’
implicit theories (Dweck, 2006; Dweck et al., 1995). For
example, our research shows how the theory that intelli-
gence is fixed and unchangeable can lead students to in-
terpret academic challenges as a sign that they may lack
intelligence—that they may be “dumb” or might be seen
as “dumb.” As we demonstrate, this way of thinking com-
promises resilience in academic settings, even among high-
achieving students (Blackwell, Trzesniewski, & Dweck,
2007; Hong, Chiu, Dweck, Lin, & Wan, 1999; Nussbaum
& Dweck, 2008). In the same way, an implicit theory that
personality is unchangeable can lead adolescents to inter-
pret peer victimization or exclusion as something that cannot
change (Yeager, Trzesniewski, Tirri, Nokelainen, & Dweck,
2011). It is clear how this can reduce resilience. In each case,
even when adolescents are taught the intellectual or social
skills they need to be resilient, they may not employ them
adequately unless their mindsets foster the idea that their
academic and social adversities have the potential to improve
(Blackwell et al., 2007; Yeager, Trzesniewski, & Dweck, in
Our research also shows that students’ mindsets can be
changed and that doing so can promote resilience. Students
can be taught the science underlying people’s potential to
change their academically and socially relevant characteris-
tics, and they can be shown how to apply these insights to
their own lives (Blackwell et al., 2007; Yeager, Trzesniewski,
et al., in press). When they are, it can have striking effects
on resilience. Thus, although we examine vulnerabilities, the
present article also provides cause for optimism.
We summarize what implicit theories are and how they
and psychologically precise school-based interventions that
shift adolescents’ implicit theories toward a malleable view.
We do so by first reviewing research on implicit theories of
intelligence and their effects on academic performance. We
then review new research on implicit theories of personal-
ity and their effects on aggression and stress. We also show
how promoting a malleable view of personality, by reducing
stress in school, can actually affect students’ achievement.
We end by addressing three important issues: (a) how efforts
to change mindsets can increase resilience even without re-
moving the adversities students encounter in school, (b) what
parents and educators should say (or avoid saying) in order to
support students’ growth-oriented implicit theories in school,
and (c) how implicit theories interventions should be scaled
up (and how they should not be scaled up) to affect more
Resilience can be defined as “good outcomes in spite of se-
rious threats to adaptation or development” (Masten, 2001,
p. 228). Within this broader definition, in the present article
we call “resilient” any behavioral, attributional, or emotional
response to an academic or social challenge that is posi-
tive and beneficial for development (such as seeking new
strategies, putting forth greater effort, or solving conflicts
peacefully), and we refer to any response to a challenge that
is negative or not beneficial for development (such as help-
lessness, giving up, cheating, or aggressive retaliation) as not
resilient. Many factors can influence a person’s resilience, in-
(Masten, 2001). At the same time, a premise of our research
is that it is not only the presence of social and academic
adversity that determines a person’s outcomes but also a per-
son’s interpretations of those adversities (Olson & Dweck,
2008; for a classic formulation in the context of depression,
see Beck, 1967). As such, next we review research on the
mindsets that allow a given person to show more resilient
interpretations and reactions to a challenge.
Implicit theories, in our research, are defined as core assump-
tions about the malleability of personal qualities (Dweck
et al., 1995; Dweck & Leggett, 1988; Molden & Dweck,
2006). They are called “implicit” because they are rarely
made explicit, and they are called “theories” because, like a
scientific theory, they create a framework for making predic-
tions and judging the meaning of events in one’s world. Im-
plicit theories are sometimes also called na¨
ıve or “lay” theo-
riesbecause, unlike scientific theories, they refer to a person’s
commonsense explanations for everyday events (Molden &
Dweck, 2006). Although students can have implicit theories
about any personal attribute, in the present article we fo-
cus on two that are especially relevant to education: implicit
theories of intelligence and implicit theories of personal-
ity.Students can vary in their implicit theories, from more of
afixedorentity theory of intelligence or personality to more
of a malleable or incremental theory (Table 1). Students with
more of an entity theory of intelligence see intellectual abil-
ity as something of which people have afixed, unchangeable
amount. On the other end of the spectrum, those with more of
an incremental theory of intelligence see intellectual ability
as something that can be grown or developed over time. In a
similar way, those with more of an entity theory of personal-
ity see people’s socially relevant traits as fixed, whereas those
with more of an incremental theory of personality view peo-
ple’s traits as having the potential to change. It is important
to note that implicit theories of intelligence and of person-
ality are distinct—it is possible for a student to believe that
Academic Mindsets, for Those With More of an Entity
Versus Incremental Implicit Theory of Intelligence
Entity Theory Incremental Theory
Goals Look smart Learn
Value of effort, help,
and strategies? Higher Lower
Response to
challenge Tendency to give up Work harder and smarter
Changes in grades
during times of
Decrease or remain
low Increase
intelligence can be changed but that personality cannot, or
vice versa (see Dweck et al., 1995).1
How do implicit theories work? Because a given implicit
theory fosters particular judgments and reactions, it can lead
to relatively consistent patterns of vulnerability or resilience
shape people’s causal attributions (Hong et al., 1999; see also
Blackwell et al., 2007; Robins & Pals, 2002; for a review of
research on causal attributions, see Weiner, 1986, 1995), and
it is well known that explaining personal adversities in terms
of fixed traits undermines resilience. As we illustrate next,
thesefixed-traitattributionsaremorelikelywhenpeople have
an entity theory, and they represent one pathway through
which implicit theories lead to differences in resilience (e.g.,
Blackwell et al., 2007; Yeager et al., 2011).
Why Do Implicit Theories of Intelligence Affect
Academic Resilience?
Students’ implicit theories of intelligence predict their aca-
demic performance over time, particularly when they face
challenging work (Blackwell et al., 2007). We review how
and why this happens.
The two implicit theories of intelligence—entity and
incremental—appearto create different psychological worlds
for students: one that promotes resilience and one that does
not (Dweck, 2006; Dweck et al., 1995). The entity theory
world is about measuring your ability, and everything (chal-
lenging tasks, effort, setbacks) measures your ability. It is a
worldof threats anddefenses. The incremental world is about
learning and growth, and everything (challenges, effort, set-
backs) is seen as being helpful to learn and grow. It is a world
of opportunities to improve.
Moreprecisely,an incremental versus entity theory shapes
students’ goals (whether they are eager to learn or instead
care mostly about looking smart and, perhaps even more im-
portant, not lookingdumb),theirbeliefs about effort (whether
effort is a key to success and growth or whether it is a signal
that they lack natural talent), their attributions for their set-
backs(whetherasetback means that they need to work harder
and alter their strategies or whether it means they might be
“dumb”), and their learning strategies in the face of setbacks
1Of interest, research also shows it is possible within a given domain
for a person to have an even more specific implicit theory. For instance,
Good, Rattan, and Dweck (2012) and Rattan, Good, and Dweck (2012)
examined implicit theories about math ability rather than general theories
about intelligence. Beer (2002) investigated implicit theories about shyness
rather than general theories about personality. An important area for future
research will be to document the relative advantages for educational practice
of intervening to change a more general implicit theory versus a more
specific one.
(whether they work harder or whether they give up, consider
cheating, and/or become defensive). Blackwell et al. (2007)
showed that these arethe variables that explain why students
with more of an incremental theory were more resilient and
earned higher grades when they confronted a challenging
school transition. Crucially, this process can play out both
for higher achieving and lower achieving students (Dweck
& Leggett, 1988); inevitably, academic standards rise, and
when they do, a person’s implicit theory of intelligence can
affect whether they respond resiliently.
Can Changes in Theories of Intelligence Affect
Academic Behavior Over Time?
Intervention experiments have shown that, indeed, changes
in theories of intelligence can affect academic behavior over
time (Aronson, Fried, & Good, 2002; Blackwell et al., 2007,
Study 2; Good, Aronson, & Inzlicht, 2003).
Aronson and colleagues (2002) changed college students’
theories of intelligence. In the incremental theory treatment
group, they first provided students with scientific informa-
tion about the brain’s functioning and potential malleability.
Students were taught how, when learning, the brain grows
stronger and smarter by forming new connections between
neurons (a message that is scientifically accurate). Students
were also asked to picture their brain growing a denser net-
work of neurons when they faced academic challenges. Next,
to make the message “stick,” Aronson et al. asked partici-
pants to write a few “pen pal” letters teaching this message
to a struggling middle school student. This treatment was
compared to a control group that was taught the idea that
different people have different intellectual strengths and that
therefore they should not worry if they do poorly in any
given area; control group students were also asked to write
pen pal letters to younger students explaining this idea. There
was also a second control group that was simply monitored
over time. For all groups, students’ grades were tracked until
the end of the year. Compared to both control groups, the
incremental theory group showed a significant increase in
overall grade point average at the end of the year of roughly
.23 grade points. The effects of learning that intelligence is
improvable were slightly greater for African American stu-
dents, who may face greater challenges in college than White
students because of negative stereotypes about their group’s
intellectual ability (Steele, 1997).
Could implicit theories also increase academic resilience
among seventh-grade students in the midst of a difficult ado-
lescent transition? Good et al. (2003) examined whether mid-
dle school students who received a series of weekly mentor-
ing e-mails over the year explaining an incremental theory
would perform better on their statewide achievement tests at
the end of the year. They found that, compared to students
randomly assigned to a control group, students in the incre-
mental group showed significantly higher math and verbal
achievement test scores. Especially large effects were found
among middle school girls in math—students who may need
to be resilient in the face of negative stereotypes about girls’
quantitative ability (Spencer, Steele, & Quinn, 1999). These
girls’ test scores were improved by more than 1 SD compared
tothe control group that didnotlearnanincremental theoryof
These studies showed that implicit theories of intelligence
could be taught in school settings and that changing them
could affect academic behavior. Yet they did not address
whether implicit theories would have an impact relative to
an intervention that provided academic skills but did not
emphasize the potential for intelligence to grow and im-
prove (e.g., the Good et al., 2003, control group taught an
antidrug message). To address this issue, Blackwell and col-
leagues (2007, Study 2) designed two different interventions
(an incremental theory intervention and a study skills inter-
vention) and delivered each to predominately racial minority
seventh-grade students. Students were randomly assigned to
learn either useful study skills for eight sessions (the con-
trol group) or the incremental theory along with study skills
for the eight sessions (the treatment group). Results showed
that, as is common during the transition to middle school,
the math grades for students in the control group continued
to decline. But for students who learned the incremental the-
ory, this downward trend was eliminated and reversed; in the
months after the treatment, they showed significantly greater
improvement in math grades relative to the control group,
nearly returning to the levels at the beginning of the year. At
year’s end, this corresponded to an estimated .30 grade point
difference between the two groups. Notably, the study skills
taught to the control group did not reverse the decline in stu-
dents’ math scores; students also needed the resilience that
comes from an incremental theory to put their study skills
into practice.
Our more recent research has begun to use implicit theo-
ries interventions to address the extremely high failure rate
of community college students who are placed in remedial
or “developmental” math classes. By some estimates, nearly
half of college students in America are attending a com-
munity college (Kolesnikova, 2010), and roughly 65% of
them place into math classes that are precollege math—that
is, math at the middle school or high school level, such as
elementary algebra or even arithmetic (Center for Commu-
nity College Student Success, 2011). Not surprisingly, this
poses a major obstacle to their prospects for graduation. Stu-
dentsin manycases must pass several of these developmental
courses and then college-level courses to graduate or transfer
to 4-year colleges. Sadly, only a small proportion of them do
so (roughly one third of those who take the classes in one
analysis by Bailey, Jeong, & Cho, 2010). Placement into re-
mediation also has the potential to lead students to conclude
that math is a fixed ability that they do not possess. In fact, in
one survey of such developmental math students, more than
68% endorsed an entity theory about math ability (Yeager,
2012). In light of these challenges, these students may have
an especially great need for resilience in general and for an
incremental theory intervention in particular.
In this context, Paunesku, Yeager, Romero and Walton
(2012) built on the Blackwell et al. (2007) intervention to
create a revised reading and writing exercise that taught an
incremental theory to community college students in devel-
opmental mathematics courses. It employed many of the
same messages as the Blackwell et al. intervention, only
these messages were tailored based on interviews and focus
groups conducted with community college math students.
For instance, the article that taught the incremental theory
emphasized the malleability of adults’ brains, because in fo-
cus groups some students felt that their math ability had now
rigidified after a period of greater malleability in childhood.
Next, although the intervention taught a general incremen-
tal theory of intelligence, it also emphasized one’s potential
to improve math ability so that participants could understand
the specific applicability of the general theory. It said, “When
peoplelearn and practice newways of doing algebra or statis-
tics, it can grow their brains—even if they haven’t done well
in math in the past.” In addition, our pilot work revealed that
attemptingmath problemsthattheydid not knowhowto solve
could make students feel “dumb,” and so they avoided doing
challenging problems altogether and instead only worked the
“example” problems (or, even worse, only read the textbook
and did not work any problems at all until they felt comfort-
able with the content). We sought to counteract this lack of
resilience when facing novel problems. Therefore the arti-
cle also emphasized the importance of switching strategies
and seeking out challenges in order to grow one’s brain. For
instance, in a section titled “A Formula for Growing Your
Brain: Effort +Good Strategies +Help From Others,” the
article stated,
It’s not just about effort. You also need to learn skills that let
you use your brain in a smarter way. ...You actually have to
practice the right way get better at something. In fact,
scientists have found that the brain grows more when you
learn something new, and less when you practice things you
already know.
Paunesku et al. (2012) evaluated the efficacy of the new
intervention by delivering it via the Internet to a sample
of more than 200 community college students enrolled in
developmental math classes (see the Project for Education
Research That Scales, They randomly
assigned students to read either the article that taught an
incremental theory or a similar control article that taught
about the brain but did not mention its potential to grow
and improve with learning. As in Aronson and colleagues’
(2002) research, participants in both conditions then wrote
mentoring letters to future students in which they explained
the key messages taught in their respective articles. Notably,
teachers at the college were unaware of students’ experimen-
tal condition and were not given any instruction or support
in reinforcing the treatment message. The exercise took, on
average, 30 min to complete.
At the end of the semester, several months later, students’
official records were obtained from their college registrar.
Preliminary analyses suggest the intervention’s effects were
substantial. Although roughly 20% of students in the control
group withdrew from their developmental math class, that
number was reduced to only about 9% in the incremental
theory treatment group—a significant difference (Paunesku
et al., 2012). Hence, this brief incremental theory exer-
cise increased students’ resilience—it cut by more than half
the withdrawal rate of developmental math students several
months later, even with no explicit reinforcement from the
researchers or the instructors. In addition, among those who
remained in the course, treated students earned better grades
and were less likely to fail. This increase in resilience is
especially surprising given the nonsignificant effects on de-
velopmental course persistence found in major recent ef-
forts to impact these students, such as learning communities
(Weiss, Visher, & Wathington, 2010), conditional cash trans-
fers (Goldrick-Rab, Harris, Benson, & Kelchen, 2011), or
comprehensive college reform (Rutschow et al., 2011). We
believe the implicit theories intervention had its striking ef-
fects because it changed the meaning of challenges—instead
of challenges making students feel “dumb,” the challenges
offered a way to get smarter. This belief was crucial for pro-
moting resilience.
Many educational reform efforts have focused on increas-
ing rigor in curricula and instruction, but if they do not also
address resilience in the face of these more challenging stan-
dards, then making such improvements may be less effective
than hoped. Our research and that of our colleagues show
that if students can be redirected to see intellectual ability as
something that can be developed over time with effort, good
strategies, and help from others, then they are more resilient
when they encounter the rigorous learning opportunities pre-
sented to them.
Performing academically is just one of the challenges ado-
lescents face on a daily basis. Students are also highly con-
cerned about their social competence, in particular whether
theirpeers include and respect them (Crosnoe, 2011; Wentzel
& Wigfield, 1998). When their social relationships are chal-
lenged, for instance by peer victimization or exclusion, stu-
dents need to be able to respond resiliently.
Our research, described next, shows that implicit theories
of personality—or beliefs about whether people’s personal-
ity traits are fixed or are malleable (Chiu, Hong, et al., 1997;
Yeager et al., 2011)—can affect resilience followingpeer vic-
timization or exclusion. We believed this would be especially
true among adolescents in high school, for several reasons.
The early years of high school are marked by an increased
concern about social labels (Brown, Mory, & Kinney, 1994;
Eccles & Barber, 1999) and by substantial adversities that
could threaten them with negative labels. For instance, high
school students at nearly every level of popularity are vic-
timized at least somewhat by their peers (Faris & Felmlee,
2011). Even when students are not directly excluded, they
might still fear peer exclusion because of the instability of
social networks during the transition to high school (Cairns
& Cairns, 1994) and the frequent use of peer exclusion to
gain social status (Cohen & Prinstein, 2006).
At the same time, adolescents increasingly seem to be-
lieve that social labels, once acquired, are fixed entities that
cannot change (Birnbaum, Deeb, Segall, Ben-Eliyahu, &
Diesendruck, 2010; Diesendruck & haLevi, 2006; Killen,
Kelly, Richardson, & Jampol, 2010). In sum, adolescents are
increasingly attentive to their social labels, they are increas-
ingly faced with the threat of negative labels, and they in-
creasingly believe that those social labels refer to fixed traits.
As a result, we expected implicit theories of personality to
provide important leverage for understanding resilience in
this age group.
Peer victimization and exclusion can lead to a host of
negative outcomes, including aggressive retaliation (e.g., Os-
trov, 2010; Reijntjes et al., 2010), greater stress (Klomek,
Marrocco, Kleinman, Schonfeld, & Gould, 2007), and even
academic underperformance (Crosnoe, 2011). Thus, next we
focuson the role of implicit theoriesof personality in shaping
each of these.
Aggressive Retaliation
Past research had shown that those with more of an entity
theory of personality are more likely to view their own and
others’ negative behaviors as stemming from fixed, personal
deficiencies (Chiu, Dweck, Tong, & Fu, 1997; Erdley, Cain,
Loomis, Dumas-Hines, & Dweck, 1997). As a result, they
tend to focus more on punishing others and less on educat-
ing or rehabilitating others (Erdley & Dweck, 1993; Gervey,
Chiu, Hong, & Dweck, 1999; Loeb & Dweck, 1994; also
see Giles, 2003). Yet previous research had not examined
whether implicit theories would affect high school adoles-
cents’ aggressive retaliation.
Our research addressed this question (Yeager, Miu,
Powers,& Dweck,in press; Yeageret al., 2011; Yeager,Trzes-
niewski,et al., in press). Wehypothesizedthatforadolescents
in an entity theory framework, victimization or exclusion
may be seen as being done by and to people whose traits can-
not change—for example, by a “bully” to someone who is
considered a “loser.” Even more, the “bully” might be seen
as a permanently “bad person” who deserves to be punished,
whereas they themselves may feel like “losers” who are per-
manently not likable. Under these conditions, harming the
transgressor who made them feel that way may seem more
satisfying. On the other hand, from the perspective of an
incremental theory, victimization may be thought of as be-
ing done by and to people who can change over time. Thus,
learning an incremental theory might reduce the desire for
aggressive retaliation by allowing adolescents to see their
future as more hopeful and by creating a greater desire to un-
derstand the motives of transgressors and, where appropriate,
to influence them (Yeager, Trzesniewski, et al., in press).
Do implicit theories of personality predict responses
to peer conflicts?
Yeager et al. (2011) began by investi-
gating whether adolescents who endorsed more of an entity
theory of personality would offer more vengeful responses
to peer conflicts. To measure an entity theory, Yeager et al.
(2011) asked high school students how much they agreed
with statements such as “Bullies and victims are types of
people that really can’t be changed.” Next, we asked ado-
lescents to write about a time that a peer upset them, and
to rate their desire for vengeance—that is, how much they
felt like “hurting,” “getting back at,” or “wishing someone
would hurt” the peer. In a diverse sample of adolescents that
included students from urban America and from across the
nation of Finland, we found that those with more of an en-
tity theory reported a significantly greater desire for revenge
following a peer conflict and a reduced desire to forgive the
peer (Yeager et al., 2011). What would those with more of
an incremental theory do? In subsequent research, we found
that those with more of an incremental theory were more
likely to say they would address a peer who had intention-
ally bullied them and try to productively educate them about
the harm their behaviors had caused (Yeager & Miu, 2011).
That is, those with an incremental theory were not passive
recipients of victimization. To the contrary, they sought out
positive solutions to proactively improve their situation; they
were more resilient.
Does teaching adolescents an incremental theory
of personality increase resilience following peer con-
In an initial experimental test of this question, Yea-
ger et al. (2011, Study 3) temporarily oriented high school
students toward an incremental view. First, all participants
read a brief scenario about a student who was a victim of
bullying in school and were asked to imagine that they were
that victim. In the randomly assigned incremental condi-
tion, however, students learned from peers and adults that
people’s characteristics can be developed and are not fixed.
They read brief summaries of longitudinal, correlational and
experimental studies that showed that people’s personal char-
acteristics could change. Students in the randomly assigned
control group read the same scenario without the incremen-
tal theory message. Then all students rated how they would
like to respond to the bullying peers in the scenario, in-
cluding how much they would desire vengeful aggression.
Yeager et al. (2011) showed that students in the incremental
theory group were significantly less likely to endorse aggres-
sive, vengeful responses to the bullies. This finding has been
replicated in other studies conducted with students from both
high-income and low-income communities (e.g., Yeager &
Miu, 2011; Yeager, Miu, et al., in press). These results were
encouraging because they showed that adolescents are not
stuck in an entity way of thinking; they can be led to adopt
more of an incremental framework.
How do theories of personality lead to resilience?
Implicit theories of personality have their effects by fos-
tering patterns of attributions and emotions about both the
transgressor and the self. For instance, after imagining being
the victim of bullying, those with more of an entity theory
are more likely to say that the peer is a “bad person” (Yeager
et al., 2011). Relatedly, after experiencing a peer conflict in
which the intention of the peer was ambiguous, those with
more of an entity theory were more likely to conclude that the
peer “did it on purpose in order to be mean” (Yeager, Miu,
et al., in press). Each of these attributions about the peer
can mediate the effect of implicit theories on a desire for
vengeance, and each can be reduced when adolescents are
experimentally led to adopt an incremental theory (Yeager
et al., 2011; Yeager, Miu, et al., in press).
The entity and incremental theories also produce dif-
ferences in attributions about oneself. Those with more of
an entity theory attribute experiences of social exclusion to
their own traits—that “maybe I’m just not a likable person”
(Erdley et al., 1997). These self-blaming attributions can
give rise to feelings of shame (Tangney, Stuewig, & Mashek,
2007; cf. Graham & Juvonen, 1998), and in our data shame
is a strong predictor of both hatred for a peer and a desire
for revenge (Yeager et al., 2011). An incremental theory, on
the other hand, sets up a psychological world in which shame
is less likely as a response to social adversity. Our incre-
mental theory manipulation reduced shame following a peer
conflict, and this reduction mediated in part the reduction in
desire for revenge (Yeager et al., 2011). In sum, when ado-
lescents facing social adversities are taught to hold more of
an incremental theory of personality, they are less likely to
condemn global, stable personal traits; they report feeling
fewer negative emotions such as shame or hatred; as a result,
they are less likely to desire revenge.
Do implicit theories of personality affect real-world
aggression in urban high schools?
In new research, we
tested the hypothesis that an incremental theory intervention
might, by changing the meaning of negative social events,
lead to reductions in retaliatory aggressive behavior even
in schools that have high levels of peer conflicts (Yeager,
Trzesniewski, et al., in press). For both theoretical and prac-
tical reasons it was important to conduct this research. As
noted, previous efforts to curb aggression have had limited
success in high school populations. Although it is easier
to reduce aggression among children using comprehensive
universal preventative interventions, analogous efforts
among adolescents in high school often show no significant
treatment effects (Karna et al., 2011; for narrative reviews
and meta-analyses, see Fossum, Handeg˚
ard, Martinussen, &
Mørch,2008; Merrell, Gueldner, Ross, & Isava,2008; Smith,
Schneider, Smith, & Ananiadou, 2004; Vreeman & Carroll,
2007; Wilson & Lipsey, 2007). Thus, it was essential to come
to a greater understanding of the causes of adolescents’ ag-
gressive retaliation and also, given the previously noted re-
search suggesting that adolescents are coming to see social
traitsareincreasinglyfixed,to develop effectiveinterventions
to stem these causes.
Ourresearch(Yeager, Trzesniewski,et al., in press) started
by creating a more extensive incremental theory of personal-
ity treatment than we employed in our previous brief experi-
ments.Ournewintervention involvedsix classroom sessions.
In the first two, building on the Blackwell et al. (2007) in-
tervention, students learned about the anatomy and function
of the brain—for instance, that the brain thinks thoughts by
sending signals between neurons and that these signals cause
behavior. Students also learned about neuroplasticity and the
brain’s potential to change and reorganize itself when peo-
ple learn and practice new ways of thinking. In the next two
sessions, students were taught the core of the incremental
theory of personality message: that people do not do things
because of their traits or labels, but because of thoughts and
feelings—thoughts and feelings that live in the brain and that
can be changed. It is important to note that students were
not taught that changing people was easy or guaranteed, or
even that one person can, on their own, change another per-
son. Instead, the intervention emphasized the potential for
change throughout one’s lifetime, despite the difficulty and
uncertainty of it. In the final two sessions, students prac-
ticed applying these beliefs following peer conflicts through
small-group discussions, reading and writing exercises, and
In a double-blind randomized field experiment (Yeager,
Trzesnieski, et al., in press), we evaluated the new interven-
tion with 230 students attending a high school with substan-
tial levels of conflict. For instance, 40% of students in this
school said that they did not feel safe from threats, and many
students were aligned with one of tworival gangs.
We compared our incremental theory of personality in-
tervention to a six-session intervention that taught extensive
social and emotional skills for coping with peer conflicts.
This control condition workshop was highly analogous to the
type of intervention that is often successful at reducing ag-
gression among children and frequently attempted with high
school students. In the control group, students were taught
aboutpositive andnegativewaysofcopingwithproblems and
practiced those methods of coping through scenarios, skits,
andsmall-group discussion. Control group exercisesand sce-
narios were for the most part identical to those used in the
incremental condition, were delivered by highly experienced
and trained teachers, and were rated as equally enjoyable and
informative. There was also a second, no-treatment control
We first assessed the impact of the interventions on be-
havioral aggression 1 month after the workshops ended. We
did so through a standardized task in which students expe-
rienced exclusion during a virtual game of catch that they
believed they were playing with two peers (the “Cyberball”
paradigm; Williams & Jarvis, 2006). In fact, the other play-
ers were controlled by a computer. Students then had the
opportunity to retaliate by assigning to the peer who osten-
sibly excluded them a chosen amount of a food that the peer
did not like—in this case, uncomfortably spicy hot sauce (of
course, students later learned that no one actually ate the hot
sauce). Aggressive retaliation was indexed by how much of
thehot sauce was allocated. Students also had the opportunity
to take prosocial action; they were given the chance to write
an anonymous note to accompany the hot sauce that went to
the peer. This part of the experiment was conducted in the
school by different research assistants and was presented as
a separate study with no relation to the treatment or control
workshops. It was highly realistic. In fact, testifying to the
validity of our measure, the amount of hot sauce allocated
during this brief experience was significantly correlated with
students’ probability of having been suspended for fighting
in school.
Did learning the incremental theory make high school
students behave less aggressively (and more resiliently) in
response to exclusion? Yeager, Trzesniewski, et al. (in press)
found that students in the incremental treatment group—who
learned that people have the potential to change—showed far
less aggressive retaliation on the hot sauce task 1 month
postintervention. They allocated roughly 40% less hot sauce
to the peer who had excluded them than did students in the
controlgroups. They werealso 3timesas likelyto take proso-
cial action toward the peer who excluded them. That is, they
wrote notes that warned the peer about the spiciness of the
sauce and apologized for it, such as, “I tried to put only a
little bit of the sauce because you circled you disliked it. So
I hope it is not too much for you.” Students in the control
conditions, on the other hand, were more likely to write neu-
tral or even menacing notes to the peer who excluded them
in Cyberball, such as, “I gave you a lot because you don’t
like spicy!!!” These results are particularly striking because
the coping-skills control group was explicitly taught 1 month
earlier how to think and respond positively following peer
conflicts, whereas the incremental theory group was only
told to recognize people’s potential for change. Yet the incre-
mental group was the one that responded less aggressively
and more prosocially following peer exclusion.
Would the incremental theory alter more chronic behav-
iors in school, outside of this controlled provocation? At the
end of the school year, the students in the incremental theory
treatment group were more likely than those in the control
groups to be nominated byteachers (whowere blind to exper-
imental condition and hypotheses) for improved conduct—in
terms of both aggression toward peers and conduct in the
Insum,theincrementaltheory of personality intervention,
by leading students to hold a mindset in which people had
the potential to change, increased resilience among students
at a school with substantial levels of peer conflict. It reduced
aggressive retaliation and increased prosocial behavior fol-
lowing an experience of peer exclusion 1 month postinter-
vention, and it improved overall conduct problems in school
asassessed3 months postintervention (Yeager,Trzesniewski,
et al., in press).
Social Stress and Academic Performance
For many adolescents, the transition to high school is rocky.
One new freshman—a participant in one our studies—
described it this way:
Some people in school began treating their friends, including
me, in a way that showed we weren’t as close or not important
anymore. ... This morning I was walking by and all the
person could do was act as if I weren’t there. Seeing them
and they just look you in the face without a “hi” or smile
makes me feel invisible.
Imagine the stress of this experience when seen through
the lens of an entity theory of personality. From that perspec-
tive, these early adversities are not seen as part of a normal
transition but rather as diagnostic information about one’s
(seemingly bleak) social future. Under these circumstances,
it is easy to see that an entity theory leads a student to expe-
rience greater stress following even minor instances of peer
exclusion or victimization. By the same token, a well-timed
nudge toward more of an incremental view—by emphasiz-
ing the potential for change—might substantially change the
meaning of these early negative social events and, by doing
so, might dramatically reduce stress and its consequences.
Thus, in some of our most recent research we have exam-
ined whether an incremental theory, by making victimization
and exclusion seem less permanent, could reduce adoles-
cents’ stress following peer exclusion and perhaps even their
chronic stress (Yeager, Johnson, Spitzer, & Dweck, 2012).
We expected that if this were the case, then learning an incre-
mental theory at a time filled with the potential for stress like
the transition to high school might lead to a change in social-
stress-related outcomes, such as academic performance (see
Crosnoe, 2011).
To test this we had a new sample of high school fresh-
men (N=78) complete a condensed version of our incre-
mental theory of personality intervention in the 1st month
of high school (Yeager et al., 2012). This intervention con-
sisted of a two activities, each lasting one class period. First,
both treatment and control groups attended an in-class work-
shop in which they were given an overview of how the brain
functions, to provide background for the incremental theory
message. Roughly 1 week later, students were given pri-
vate envelopes with randomly assigned treatment or control
reading and writing activities. In the treatment group, this
activity first asked students to read a scientific article ex-
plaining the basis for the incremental theory of personality,
and then asked students to write a note to a future ninth-grade
student explaining how they can use that knowledge if they
feel rejected, victimized or left out (cf. Aronson et al., 2002).
The control group completed a highly similar activity that
was positive and optimistic but did not teach the idea that
people’s personality traits can change. Like previous implicit
theories interventions, this was a double-blind randomized
field experiment, meaning that teachers were unaware of the
treatmentmessages and students wereunawarethat they were
randomly assigned to condition or that the treatment was de-
signed to be helpful for their stress or grades.
One to 2 days after students completed the intervention,
we assessed the level of stress they felt following social ex-
clusion.Todoso,wehad students participate in the Cyberball
experience of exclusion (Williams & Jarvis, 2006), and they
rated their stress levels afterward. Did theincremental theory
intervention reduce stress? It did, substantially—by roughly
.5 SD.
We next examined whether these reports of stress after
an experience of exclusion could provide insight into stu-
dents’more chronic experiencesofstress overtime. Wetested
whether overall life stress would be reduced in the treatment
group 8 months postintervention, at the end of their freshman
year. It was, by roughly the same amount—.5 SD. Moreover,
the effect on long-term stress was statistically mediated by
differences in acute stress measured after the Cyberball ex-
clusion 8 months earlier. Thus, a relatively brief intervention
to teach an incremental theory of personality at the beginning
of the year appeared to buffer adolescents from individual in-
stances of social stress and, over time, to lower their chronic
levels of stress.
If the intervention could reduce stress, could it also af-
fect behaviors related to social stress in school, such as aca-
demicperformance (Crosnoe, 2011)? Weexaminedstudents’
grades in core classes (English and Math) over the 8-month
period following the incremental theory of personality inter-
vention.Wefound that inthe control group there wasa steady
decline in grades over the year, which is common for students
who transition to high school (Benner, 2011). However, for
those in the incremental theory treatment group this decline
in grades was slowed substantially, resulting in a difference
ingrades of roughly one third ofa grade point betweenthe in-
cremental group and the control group over the year (Yeager
et al., 2012). This effect of the incremental theory treatment
on achievement was fully mediated by the difference in stress
between the two groups.
Hence, an incremental theory, in addition to reducing re-
taliatory aggression (Yeager, Trzesniewski, et al., in press),
can reduce perceptions that experiences of peer exclusion
are stressful (Yeager et al., 2012). Over time, this can add up
to long-term differences in both overall stress and academic
Coping with peer victimization or exclusion can be chal-
lenging for any adolescent. This may be especially true if
these events happen during difficult transitions such as the
1st year at high school, as students are trying to form new
friendships, adopt new identities, and navigate the social la-
bels given them by peers—labels that are not always to their
liking. Our research suggests that adolescents are more vul-
nerable to these social adversities when they hold a mindset
in which they and their peers are not likely to change. How-
ever, when adolescents have or are taught a mindset in which
people have the potential to change their socially relevant
traits—even if those traits are difficult to change—then they
canbemoreresilient in the face of victimization or exclusion.
These findings commonly raise (at least) three questions, and
we address them next.
1. How Can Changing Mindsets Improve School
Outcomes Without Removing the Objective
Adversities in Students’ Environments?
The intervention experiments previously described were de-
signed to change students’ mindsets and, to test the effects
of doing only this, did not try to affect the objective school
environment.Teachersandparents were unawareof the incre-
mental theory messages, and curricula and pedagogy were
unchanged. Yet the implicit theories interventions signifi-
cantly improved adolescents’ functioning over time. How
can this be?
This is possible because, as noted earlier, a child’s inter-
pretations of adversity can determine whether that adversity
affects a child’s outcomes (Beck, 1967; Olson & Dweck,
2008). The method to create resilience shown in this arti-
cle relies on this idea and shows that one way to prevent an
adverse situation from worsening a child’s outcomes is to in-
terrupt the child’s potentially negative interpretations of the
situation—in this case, by changing implicit theories toward
moreofanincrementalview.This approach doesnotdenythe
profound impact of the environment on children (teachers,
peers, parents, neighborhoods, curricula), but it highlights
the psychological factors within the student that can be more
readily changed (Olson & Dweck, 2008).
Our approach is counterintuitive for those who may not
think of major school reform in terms of addressing the be-
liefsof the students. More often, schoolreform has attempted
to address structural factors such as the size of the school,
the quality of the teachers or the length of the school day,
or they have attempted to directly teach students skills for
studying or learning. These efforts are undoubtedly impor-
tant. But they rest on the assumption that the reason students
are not learning or engaging is because students have not
been given the correct resources or skills. We propose that
this may not always be the case. Sometimes the forces in a
system are adequate to support learning, but students have
mindsets that prevent them from fully taking advantage of
those forces (Yeager & Walton, 2011; cf. Lewin, 1947). As a
result, a well-timed and psychologically precise intervention
to address those mindsets can unlock the latent effectiveness
of educational environments and lead to long-term effects on
students’ achievement (Yeager & Walton, 2011).
2. Can Messages From Adults Unintentionally
Create Mindsets That Undermine Resilience?
Students’ mindsets can be affected by the subtle messages
they receive from adults. Even seemingly positive teacher or
parent behaviors—such as praise or comfort for struggling
students—can lead students to adopt more of a fixed, entity
theory and by doing so unintentionally undermine resilience.
We review some of this evidence next.
In a series of studies, Mueller and Dweck (1998) showed
that praising students for being “smart” leads students to
endorse more of an entity theory and to respond with less
resilience following academic setbacks. To demonstrate this,
Mueller and Dweck gave fifth-grade students a set of logic
problems matched to their grade level. After completing
them, students were praised. Some children (randomly as-
signed) received intelligence praise (“That’s a really high
score; you must be smart at these problems”). Others re-
ceived praise that focused more on process rather than abil-
ity (“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 equal in
difficulty to the first set. The type of praise had a substantial
effect on the students. The intelligence praise led students to
adopt more of an entity theory and led the majority of them
to say that they would only like to do easy problems, not
challenging ones. Strikingly, intelligence praise also com-
promised performance. Children who received intelligence
praise solved 30% fewer problems on the final trial relative
to the first trial. They were also more likely to misrepresent
their scores, claiming that they performed better than they
actually did. Students who received process praise, by con-
trast, did significantly better on the third trial than they had
done on the first trial, and they asked to do more challenging
problems in the future—they adopted the incremental theory.
Whatis surprising about Mueller and Dweck’s(1998) finding
is that many parents or educators might believe that praising
students for being “smart” could buffer them from feeling
“dumb” when they encounter a setback. Ironically, however,
the opposite is true. Research on implicit theories shows we
should not praise children for being “smart” when they do
well, but rather, to promote resilience, praise them for the
process they engaged in—their effort, their strategies, their
focus, or their persistence.
How should we comfort students when they do not per-
form well? Parents and teachers may believe that when a
student struggles in a subject it is best to acknowledge that it
is not their fault—that it simply is not their “strength”—and
to encourage them to focus on their successes in other do-
mains. However, new research shows that this strategy grows
out of an adult’s entity theory: The adult’s belief that a strug-
gling student has low ability in that area and will never do
well in it. This, in turn, can create low confidence and poor
resilience in students. In a series of experiments, Rattan et al.
(2012, Studies 1–3) showed that teachers (or adults acting as
teachers) who held more of an entity theory were more likely
to say they would tell struggling students that they were just
“not a math person,” and then want to assign them less math
homework. Next, Rattan et al. (Study 4) showed that giving
this kind of feedback could affect students’ resilience. They
found that comforting students for not being a “math per-
son” led to lower expectations of improvement on the part
of students and to lower expectations for their final grade in
the course. This was true even though students in all exper-
imental conditions were also told the teacher viewed them
as having high overall ability in other areas; this “positive
buffer” did not neutralize the negative effect of the entity
feedback. Hence, entity “comfort” is not in fact comforting
from the perspective of the student. Of importance, Rattan
et al. showed that there is a better way to provide feedback
when students do not perform well: help them see that they
need better strategies. When a teacher said that they needed
to meet with a tutor to improve their strategies, they viewed
their teacher as having more of an incremental theory of
math, and the students had higher expectations for their own
performance in the future. Hence, as in Mueller and Dweck’s
(1998) research, focusing more on process than on ability
can put students in a mindset that helps them respond to
challenges resiliently.
Future research might investigate whether a similar ef-
fect holds for implicit theories of personality. For instance,
in an effort to comfort adolescents who experience peer ex-
clusion or bullying, parents or teachers may use (or imply)
fixed labels (e.g., “They’re just bullies,” “They’re bad people
and you’re not”). These labels, though designed to help a
victim cope, may be creating a mindset in which a peer is
seen as unable to change. And, as we now know, these judg-
ments produce more vengeful responses to social conflicts
(e.g., Yeager, Miu, et al., in press). Notably, it is possible
to comfort children without implying that the aggressor will
always be a “bad person.” A parent might acknowledge the
injustice of being bullied, but also point to the situational or
psychological causes of the peers’ behavior, rather than to
fundamentally flawed—and fixed—character traits. Perhaps
designating a behavior as bad—but not the transgressor him-
self or herself as unchangeably bad—may also be effective.
These are potential ways to deflect self-blame, and to ac-
knowledge the difficulty of being bullied without fueling a
desire for revenge (Yeager, Miu, et al., in press).
3. How Should Incremental Theory Interventions
Be Scaled Up to Affect More Students?
A final question involves how to use these psychologi-
cal strategies to affect resilience on a broader scale. As
Yeager and Walton (2011) have argued, scaling up social-
psychological interventions is not as simple as delivering
the same worksheets and workshops to more students. Incre-
mental theory interventions have their effects because they
(a) include messages that precisely target the way an entity
theory is affecting students in a given context and (b) are
delivered using methods that lead students to quickly inter-
nalize those messages (Yeager & Walton, 2011). If attempted
at a larger scale, implicit theories interventions will need to
retain each of these features.
To do so, sometimes implicit theories interventions will
need to be customized for a given population. The Blackwell
et al. (2007) and Good et al. (2003) interventions affected
middle school students’ psychology by focusing on the idea
that putting forth greater effort in the service of learning
could strengthen students’ brains. But through interviews,
focus groups, and national surveys with community college
students in remedial math classes, Yeager (2012) found that
community college math students frequently put forth great
effort but use very poor strategies and do not ask for help.
Although strategy use and help-seeking were certainly em-
bedded in the Blackwell et al. (2007) intervention, they were
brought to the fore for the community college intervention
(Paunesku et al., 2012). In the revised incremental theory
intervention, the “formula” for success was “Effort +Strate-
gies +Help From Others.” And, as the reader may recall,
this intervention had striking effects on course completion
several months later.
All customization is not guaranteed to be effective, how-
ever. There is the potential to lose sight of the core message
and focus instead on scaling up the superficially related but
psychologically “inert” portions of the intervention. For in-
stance, a tempting (but ineffective) implementation of an
implicit theories intervention would be to provide students
with extended lectures about the brain’s structure and func-
tion but not to pay sufficient attention to the brain’s potential
tochange or to the idea that struggling growsnew neural con-
nections rather than meaning you are “dumb.” The neurosci-
entific information undoubtedly facilitates the incremental
theory treatment effect—not only is neuroscience intrinsi-
cally interesting, but experiments show that psychological
arguments are more compelling when they are accompanied
by neuroscientific data (Weisberg, Keil, Goodstein, Rawson,
& Gray, 2008). However, the neuroscientific information is
not, in and of itself, the intervention. An incremental theory
message must convey to adolescents that people’s charac-
teristics, which are based in the brain, have the potential to
be developed. In fact, the Paunesku et al. (2012), Blackwell
etal. (2007), and Yeager,Trzesniewski,et al. (in press)studies
were direct tests of this proposition; the control conditions
also taught about the parts and functions of the brain, yet
only the incremental theory conditions, which taught about
the potential to develop personal qualities, led to increased
levels of resilience.
Thus, occasionally implicit theories interventions need to
be customized to address the mindsets of students of a given
age and in a given context. At the same time, we do not
believe that this should be done without deep knowledge of
the underlying psychology that the interventions are trying
to instill. For this reason, collaborative partnerships between
researchers, practitioners, and students may be necessary to
engineer interventions that will work at scale (Yeager & Wal-
ton, 2011).
A final question for bringing interventions to scale in-
volves context-specificity, or whether an implicit theory
learned in one context (such as during school) will or can
be made to transfer to another context (such as out-of-school
activities or at home). Indeed, the question of knowledge
transfer is a vibrant and contentious one in the cognitive
psychology of learning (Day & Goldstone, 2012; Schwartz,
Chase, & Bransford, 2012). Although, in general, transfer
has been elusive, some recent research has documented ef-
fective methods for promoting transfer of scientific theories
across contexts (Schwartz, Chase, Oppezzo, & Chin, 2011).
Hence, an important question is the extent to which im-
plicit theories taught in one context tend to transfer across
contexts and whether novel intervention methods that draw
on insights from cognitive psychology might facilitate such
Implicit Theories and Resilience
In this article we have shown that students’ implicit theo-
ries about the potential for personal characteristics to be de-
veloped can affect resilience following academic and social
adversities. As we have demonstrated, the different implicit
theories—entityand incremental—create distinct psycholog-
ical lenses that filter people’s experiences of these adversities
and, by doing so, lead to different patterns of vulnerability
or resilience. On a broader theoretical level, we have pro-
vided evidence that resilience is not exclusively a quality of
a person or of a context, but rather it can also be the con-
sequence of a person’s interpretations of the adversities they
are facing. It is important to note that this analysis provides
great promise for the development of brief but powerfulinter-
ventions to change students’ interpretations and to address,
at least partially, some of the most critical social problems
facing students: underachievement and responses to peer
That improving resilience was possible even among stu-
dents who may have had a lifetime of unproductive beliefs
about personal characteristics—for instance, adults taking
remedial math in college (Paunesku et al., 2012) and ado-
lescents attending high schools with high levels of aggres-
sion (Yeager, Miu, et al., in press; Yeager, Trzesniewski,
et al., in press)—reinforces the notion that it is crucial that
researchers and educators continue to pay attention to un-
productive mindsets. Of course, problems such as academic
achievement and responses to peer victimization are com-
plex and multidetermined. As such, they are likely best ad-
dressedby also continuing efforts to providestudents with the
skills, resources, and beneficial environments they require to
Asstudentsmovethrough our educational system, all of them
will face adversity at one time or another, whether it is so-
cial or academic in nature. Thus, a central task for parents
and educators is to prepare students to respond resiliently
when these inevitable challenges arise. Although educators
and parents have intuitive strategies for doing so, many of
these strategies may be ill-advised, such as praising students
for being “smart” to boost their self-esteem or condemn-
ing those who behave aggressively as evil bullies. This is
why we need scientifically tested methods to tell us how to
truly promote resilience. Our research has looked at these
adversities through the eyes of students to try to capture the
underlying psychology of what causes some students to feel
vulnerable, discouraged, or stressed when they face chal-
lenges. We have found that what students need the most is
not self-esteem boosting or trait labeling; instead, they need
mindsets that represent challenges as things that they can
take on and overcome over time with effort, new strategies,
learning, help from others, and patience. When we empha-
size people’s potential to change, we prepare our students to
face life’s challenges resiliently.
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... Growth mindset, or the belief that human capacities can be improved through efforts and practices has been investigated in several studies across several contexts. For example, it was found that growth mindset has positive relationships with behavioural, cognitive, and emotional factors such as motivation (Blackwell et al., 2007), perseverance and learning strategies (Farrington et al., 2012), learning engagement (Aronson et al. 2002), self-esteem, resilience, anxiety (Yeager & Dweck, 2012;King, 2012;Schroder et al., 2015) and academic achievement (Blackwell et al., 2007;King, 2012;Yeager & Dweck, 2012). Given the positive influences of growth mindset on learning, it is considered the fundamental noncognitive factor of lifelong learning in the 21st century (Center for Curriculum Redesign, 2015). ...
... Growth mindset, or the belief that human capacities can be improved through efforts and practices has been investigated in several studies across several contexts. For example, it was found that growth mindset has positive relationships with behavioural, cognitive, and emotional factors such as motivation (Blackwell et al., 2007), perseverance and learning strategies (Farrington et al., 2012), learning engagement (Aronson et al. 2002), self-esteem, resilience, anxiety (Yeager & Dweck, 2012;King, 2012;Schroder et al., 2015) and academic achievement (Blackwell et al., 2007;King, 2012;Yeager & Dweck, 2012). Given the positive influences of growth mindset on learning, it is considered the fundamental noncognitive factor of lifelong learning in the 21st century (Center for Curriculum Redesign, 2015). ...
... In academic settings, growth mindset has predictive power for learning achievement, that is, grades (Blackwell et al., 2007;King, 2012;Yeager & Dweck, 2012) and positive learning behaviours such as perseverance, learning strategies (Farrington et al., 2012), and engagement (Aronson et al., 2002). Neuroscience studies also find that growth-mindset people tend to handle stress better than people with fixed mindsets as they are more flexible and adaptive in difficult situations. ...
... Previous school-based interventions targeting mindset conveyed the message that personal characteristics (e.g., intelligence) could grow when individuals put effort into challenging tasks, and thus struggle associated with the challenging tasks is taken as an opportunity for growth rather than a threat that needs to be avoided. These interventions aimed to increase adolescents' motivation to challenge themselves and to support their ability to persist, by changing the way they think of academic setbacks and by encouraging them to see failure as an opportunity to grow (Blackwell et al., 2007;Burnette et al., 2013;Kagitcibasi et al., 2018;Yeager & Dweck, 2012). In other words, these interventions did not teach adolescents knowledge about a subject or new skill, but they helped adolescents by changing their attitudes during a challenge or failure so that negative emotions associated with failure did not impede learning (Dweck et al., 2014). ...
... Numerous experimental studies have shown that exposing adolescents and adults to information that is suggestive of a growth mindset is effective (Aronson, Fried, & Good, 2002;Chiu et al., 1997;Dweck & Leggett 1988;Good et al., 2003;Yeager & Dweck, 2012). Some of these interventions were effective in increasing the endorsement of incremental theories (Donohoe, Topping and Hannah, 2012;Murphy & Dweck 2010;Paunesku et al., 2015) and some were effective in preventing the decline in the study outcomes (e.g., growth mindset, school grades) for those who participated in the intervention (Blackwell et al., 2007). ...
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In the current study, we examined the effectiveness of a positive youth development (PYD) intervention for early adolescents with high socioeconomic status in private schools and a potential moderator of the intervention effectiveness. Specifically, we focused on the effectiveness of the PYD intervention (PERGEL) in growth mindset and self-efficacy and whether the intervention effectiveness differed for early adolescents who have varying levels of emotion regulation. It was expected that PERGEL, the PYD intervention program in the current study, would be effective in supporting growth mindset and self-efficacy, and the intervention effect would be higher for adolescents who had high levels of emotion regulation skills. The intervention group consisted of 420 fifth and sixth graders in a private school in Turkey (Mage = 11.4, 49.7% female). The control group consisted of 166 fifth and sixth graders in a private school (Mage = 11.5, 41.6 % female). A multi-group analysis was conducted using MPLUS and the results revealed that the intervention was effective in supporting growth mindset in the intervention group compared to the control group; however, the direct effects of the intervention on self-efficacy were absent. Contrary to our hypotheses, the results showed that the adolescents with low levels of emotion regulation benefited more from the intervention compared to the adolescents with high levels of emotion regulation. The study disclosed that the school-based PYD intervention (PERGEL) was effective in supporting a growth mindset for all adolescents and self-efficacy for the adolescents with low levels of emotion regulation in private schools.
... However, the behavior of agentic engagement may be supported by an agentic mindset, that is, by an underlying belief or mindset that individuals can shape their environment, personal motivation, and need satisfaction by constructively asserting their agency (Patall et al., 2022). There is extensive evidence on mindsets demonstrating that the extent to which students believe various personal characteristics and experiences (e.g., ability, aggressiveness, shyness, personal interest, and experience of interest) are malleable or fixed have consequences for their behavior and outcomes in relevant situations (e.g., Beer, 2002;O'Keefe et al., 2018;Thoman et al., 2019;Yeager & Dweck, 2012). ...
... For example, students who more strongly endorse beliefs about the malleability (rather than fixedness) of their intelligence and the importance of having the right strategies and putting forth effort also demonstrate greater persistence in the face of failure and achievement (Dweck & Leggett, 1988;Yeager & Dweck, 2012). Likewise, believing one's experience of interest is malleable predicts students using more interest-enhancing strategies on boring learning tasks (Thoman et al., 2019). ...
Students’ agentic engagement and teachers’ autonomy support represent powerful reciprocal factors that can influence academic outcomes. However, little is known about the extent to which students’ agentic mindset reciprocally relates to agentic engagement and teachers’ practice or the parallel role of teacher control, particularly among ethnically diverse urban students. The current investigation examined reciprocal relations between urban U.S. high school science students’ agentic mindset, agentic engagement, and perceived teacher autonomy support and control over time. Cross-lagged structural equation models indicated that agentic mindset, agentic engagement, and perceived teacher practice reciprocally relate. Agentic engagement predicted increases in agentic mindset. Perceived teacher autonomy support predicted increases in agentic mindset and agentic engagement. Agentic mindset predicted decreases in perceived teacher control and vice versa. Moderator analyses suggested that relations varied depending on prior achievement and stereotype vulnerability, but not gender. Specifically, perceived support increased the agentic engagement more for low versus high stereotype vulnerable students. Predicted relations were also stronger and more adaptive for higher achieving compared to lower achieving students, with adaptive relationships from mindset to engagement and from engagement to perceived teacher practice emerging only for high achieving students. Implications for theory, future research, and practice are discussed.
... Research shows that individuals who support entity theory have a poor ability to adapt to public health challenges, while individuals who support incremental theory can better recover from public health crisis events (Park and Shapiro, 2021). Previous studies have confirmed that mindsets (implicit theories) can predict the resilience of adolescent students (Yeager and Dweck, 2012). Recent studies have explored the relationship between mindsets (implicit theories) and the psychological resilience of American College adults, and found that people with Frontiers in Psychology 03 ...
... The results of this study show that implicit theories positively predict the level of resilience of nurses, confirming Hypothesis 1, which is similar to previous findings (Yeager and Dweck, 2012;Boullion et al., 2021). This study indicates that nurses who are more inclined to incremental theory show higher resilience in the face of challenges or adversity than nurses who adopt entity theory. ...
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Implicit theories refer to assumptions people hold about different domains, also known as mindsets. There are two implicit theories on the malleability of one’s ability: entity theory and incremental theory. They constrain and regulate people’s understanding and responses to an individual’s behavior, leading to different social cognitive patterns and behavioral responses. Resilience is a positive adaptation in highly stressful situations that represents mechanisms for coping with and transcending difficult experiences, i.e., a person’s ability to successfully adapt to change, resist the adverse effects of stressors, avoid significant dysfunction, and be chronically affected by considered a protective factor for mental health. Although previous studies showed that individuals’ implicit theories are associated with resilience, this relationship has received little attention in the nursing population. It is unclear which variables may contribute to explaining the relationship between implicit theories and resilience. Therefore, the current study aims to deeply explore the relationship between implicit theories and the resilience of Chinese nurses. In addition, we also seek to demonstrate the chain mediating effects of grit and meaning in life on this relationship. We surveyed 709 Chinese nurses through online questionnaires using the self-made demographic questionnaire, the Implicit Theories Scale, the Short Grit Scale, the Meaning in Life Questionnaire, and the 10-item Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale. After controlling for demographic variables such as age, gender, educational background, marital status, professional title, and working years, the results reveal positive associations between Chinese nurses’ implicit theories and their resilience, and grit and meaning in life play a partial mediating role in this relationship, respectively. Furthermore, grit and meaning in life play a chain mediating role between implicit theories and resilience. These findings contribute to understanding the psychological impact mechanism of implicit theories on nurses’ resilience and provide a theoretical basis for nursing managers to formulate strategies to improve nurses’ psychological resilience.
... How resiliency is developed can be traced to the mindset of a child. A child's mindset-or how he or she perceives him-or herself-is related to how the child responds to challenging situations (Yeager & Dweck, 2012). A great example comes from the well-known story The Little Engine That Could TM . ...
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Like all children, deaf and hard of hearing children thrive in environments that support and promote healthy ways of thinking. When individuals have healthy ways of thinking, they have what researchers call a “growth mindset” (Dweck, 2006), and part of a growth mindset is resiliency. When a child who is resilient faces a challenge, he or she will try different solutions, exhibit greater effort, and not easily give up. In comparison, a non-resilient child may easily give up and even exhibit helplessness or shy away from future challenges. Developing resiliency and growth mindsets in students has been found to lead to increased academic achievement (Blackwell, Trzeniewski, & Dweck, 2007; Good, Aronson, & Inzlicht, 2003). As we raise expectations for deaf and hard of hearing children, we must foster their resiliency; resiliency is a critical tool in meeting high expectations and achieving academic success.
... These views encompass beliefs that some people are "STEM people" and some are not, and that these abilities are conferred at birth (Williams & King, 1980). Holding this "fixed view" of intelligence has been shown to lower motivation, undermine performance, and disrupt learning, especially when learners are faced with challenging content (Dweck & Leggett, 1988;Grant & Dweck, 2003;Mangles et al., 2006;Yeager & Dweck, 2012). ...
For over a decade, the STEM Teacher and Researcher (STAR) Program has been supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program along with other funders to provide paid summer research experiences for preservice and early-career science and mathematics teachers at national laboratories and other research facilities. Research into teacher research experiences (TREs) often includes self-report data from program participants, with few studies looking at impacts on students or longer-term impacts. We present results from a set of three Noyce Track 4 Research studies regarding the impact of the STAR Program on teacher effectiveness and productive mind-set. The first study compared eight STAR and non-STAR classrooms and found measurable differences both in how teachers describe their classroom practices and in how students perceive these practices and their own interests and skills, specifically in STEM career awareness, perception of the value of STEM learning, and student perseverance. The second study investigated the impact of STAR teachers on student achievement and found that there were no measurable differences in student achievement on high-stakes state assessments between students of nine STAR teachers and students of other teachers in their five respective districts. The third study found that infusing explicit instruction on productive mind-sets has a positive impact on preservice teachers’ own mind-sets and the strategies that they plan to use with their students. Ongoing work involves investigating the impact of the STAR Program on teacher retention, comparing long-term retention rates of STAR and non-STAR teachers in the state of California. Our work demonstrates the value of supported research experiences for future STEM teachers and illustrates some of the complexity of assessing the impact for students.
... level 3 and 4 evaluations have great potential as areas for future research. Constructs such as hope theory (snyder et al., 1991), self-leadership (neck, manz, & houghton, 2019), strengths-based leadership (Welch, grossaint, reid, & Walker, 2014), the impact of emotional intelligence (dabke, 2016), mindsets (dweck, 2006;Yeager & dweck, 2012), spirituality (houghton, neck, & Krishnaskumar, 2016), and grit (duckworth, 2020; duckworth & gross, 2014) are all related to -and perhaps key components of -affect. as this study suggests, looking deeply into how attitudes may be triggered and how they might be circumvented seems to be a topic that is ripe for research. ...
Meaning-centered education situates meaning at the center of teaching and learning (Kovbasyuk & Blessinger, 2013). By incorporating learning objectives from additional learning domains – namely the affective domain – meaning-centered learning should enhance students’ personal and professional identities, as they reinforce existing knowledge through the continuous conscious acquisition of knowledge across learning domains. For this study, instructors integrated the human resource development (HRD) constructs of Level 1 and Level 2 evaluations into an online doctoral strategic planning course to achieve three goals: (A) increase student engagement, (B) assess affective domain learning outcomes, and (C) practice innovative teaching to reinforce creative meaning-centered learning. Infusing an online curriculum with affective learning domain outcomes and weekly formative assessment activities allowed instructors to monitor and address affective attributes. Results suggest that the implementation of Level 1 and Level 2 evaluations as weekly formative assessments increased student engagement. Extended analysis promoted a deeper understanding of the roles that emotions and attitudes play in online learning. Affective learning outcomes were attained as these additional weekly exercises promoted meaning-centered collaboration with students while decreasing the power-related distance between learners and instructors.
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Evidence has consistently highlighted equity concerns for the educational experiences and outcomes of working-class boys in England. This paper explores one facet of this complex issue: the disparity in the behaviour and approaches to learning exhibited by working-class boys relative to their peers. A review of existing literature synthesizes scholarship from the fields of education, sociology and psychology, to critically analyse theoretical perspectives about the behaviour and approaches to learning exhibited by working-class boys during secondary education. Subsequently, an action-research project details the development and implementation of ameliorative strategies for a group of four boys at a challenging inner-city comprehensive through collaborations with research participants and professional colleagues. The research suggests the need for practitioners to utilise more personalized approaches of behaviour management, grounded in understandings about individual students, empowering students to exercise agency and improve in-school behaviour. Furthermore, the findings highlight potential areas for future scholarship centred on integrating existing literature with sociological action-theories.
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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).
This research sought to integrate C. S. Dweck and E. L. Leggett's (1988) model with attribution theory. Three studies tested the hypothesis that theories of intelligence-the belief that intelligence is malleable (incremental theory) versus fixed (entity theory)-would predict (and create) effort versus ability attributions, which would then mediate mastery-oriented coping. Study 1 revealed that, when given negative feedback, incremental theorists were more likely than entity theorists to attribute to effort. Studies 2 and 3 showed that incremental theorists were more likely than entity theorists to take remedial action if performance was unsatisfactory. Study 3, in which an entity or incremental theory was induced, showed that incremental theorists' remedial action was mediated by their effort attributions. These results suggest that implicit theories create the meaning framework in which attributions occur and are important for understanding motivation.
Three studies examined implicit self-theories in relation to shy people's goals, responses, and consequences within social situations. Shy incremental theorists were more likely than shy entity theorists to view social situations as a learning opportunity and to approach social settings (Study 1). Shy incremental theorists were less likely to use strategies aimed at avoiding social interaction (Studies 2 and 3) and suffered fewer negative consequences of their shyness (Study 3). These findings generalized across both hypothetical and actual social situations as well as both self-reports and observer reports and could not be attributed to individual differences in level of shyness. Together, these studies indicate that implicit self-theories of shyness are important for understanding individual differences among shy people and suggest new avenues for implicit self-theories research.
The study of resilience in development has overturned many negative assumptions and deficit-focused models about children growing up under the threat of disadvantage and adversity. The most surprising conclusion emerging from studies of these children is the ordinariness of resilience. An examination of converging findings from variable-focused and person-focused investigations of these phenomena suggests that resilience is common and that it usually arises from the normative functions of human adaptational systems, with the greatest threats to human development being those that compromise these protective systems. The conclusion that resilience is made of ordinary rather than extraordinary processes offers a more positive outlook on human development and adaptation, as well as direction for policy and practice aimed at enhancing the development of children at risk for problems and psychopathology. The study of resilience in development has overturned many negative assumptions and deficit-focused models about children growing up under the threat of disadvantage and adversity.
In American high schools, teenagers must navigate complex youth cultures that often prize being “real” while punishing difference. Adults may view such social turbulence as a timeless, ultimately harmless rite of passage, but changes in American society are intensifying this rite and allowing its effects to cascade into adulthood. Integrating national statistics with interviews and observations from a single school, this book explores this phenomenon. It makes the case that recent macro-level trends, such as economic restructuring and technological change, mean that the social dynamics of high school can disrupt educational trajectories after high school; it looks at teenagers who do not fit in socially at school — including many who are obese or gay — to illustrate this phenomenon; and it crafts recommendations for parents, teachers, and policymakers about how to protect teenagers in trouble. The end result is a story of adolescence that hits home with anyone who remembers high school.
In this article, the authors propose that individuals' moral beliefs are linked to their implicit theories about the nature (i.e., malleability) of their social-moral reality. Specifically, it was hypothesized that when individuals believe in a fixed reality (entity theory), they tend to hold moral beliefs in which duties within the given system are seen as fundamental. In contrast, when individuals believe in a malleable reality (incremental theory), one that can be shaped by individuals, they hold moral beliefs that focus on moral principles, such as human rights, around which that reality should be organized. Results from 5 studies supported the proposed framework: Implicit theories about the malleability of one's social-moral reality predicted duty-based vs. rights-based moral beliefs.
A general theory of domain identification is used to describe achievement barriers still faced by women in advanced quantitative areas and by African Americans in school. The theory assumes that sustained school success requires identification with school and its subdomains; that societal pressures on these groups (e.g., economic disadvantage, gender roles) can frustrate this identification; and that in school domains where these groups are negatively stereotyped, those who have become domain identified face the further barrier of stereotype threat, the threat that others' judgments or their own actions will negatively stereotype them in the domain. Research shows that this threat dramatically depresses the standardized test performance of women and African Americans who are in the academic vanguard of their groups (offering a new interpretation of group differences in standardized test performance), that it causes disidentification with school, and that practices that reduce this threat can reduce these negative effects.