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Growth Mindset Interventions: Lessons from Across Domains


Abstract and Figures

A growth mindset is the belief one’s characteristics, e.g. intelligence, are malleable. It leads to a better use of goal setting, goal operating, and goal monitoring, all of which are related to superior goal achievement in general. In the present study, I present successful interventions of strengthening a growth mindset. Searching the literature, three domains of intervention appeared: education, business, and sports. In all of these domains, neuroplasticity, the ability of the mind to change, has been addressed in some way. In addition to explaining how, I also discuss findings relating to possible transfer of mindsets from one to another domain.
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Growth Mindset Interventions: Lessons from Across Domains
Jorim Holtey-Weber
University of Groningen
Supervisor: Marije Elferink-Gemser
Date: 09/01/2018
Author Note
Jorim Holtey-Weber, student of MSc Sport Sciences, University Medical Centre
Groningen and student of MSc Talent Development and Creativity, Department of Psychology,
University of Groningen, the Netherlands.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Jorim Holtey-Weber
A growth mindset is the belief one’s characteristics, e.g. intelligence, are malleable. It leads to a
better use of goal setting, goal operating, and goal monitoring, all of which are related to superior
goal achievement in general. In the present study, I present successful interventions of
strengthening a growth mindset. Searching the literature, three domains of intervention appeared:
education, business, and sports. In all of these domains, neuroplasticity, the ability of the mind to
change, has been addressed in some way. In addition to explaining how, I also discuss findings
relating to possible transfer of mindsets from one to another domain.
Keywords: theory of mind, epistemic belief, self-regulation, intervention, talent
Growth Mindset Interventions: Lessons from Across Domains
A growth mindset is the belief that one’s abilities and skills are malleable. In other
words, one believes one’s attributes (e.g. intelligence, concentration, running speed, etc.) can be
changed. The opposite of a growth mindset is a fixed mindset, the belief that one’s characteristics
are fixed and one cannot do anything about them (Yeager & Dweck, 2012). In the literature,
mindsets are also called implicit theories, belief systems, epistemological/epistemic belief, or
theory of mind.
Mindset research began in education but has spread into different areas and
interventions have been developed for education, sports, business, etc. Examples include work
on conceptions of intelligence by Boyum (1988), more basic research on mindsets and cognition
(e.g. Gollwitzer, 1990), and stereotyping in schools by Dweck, Chiu, and Hong (1995).
In her book Self-Theories, Dweck (2000) described the mechanisms of mindsets and
proposed techniques for developing a growth mindset. Her work was focused on teaching school
children to develop a growth mindset and included the following suggestions to teachers and
Praise and critique. Praise and critique were advised to be used in a way favourable for
growth mindset development. Dweck (2000) advised using critique in a constructive way so that
the children wouldn’t feel stupid but encouraged to try harder or try a different method to
succeed. Praise can undermine the longing for greatness and restrict one’s efforts. Dweck
advised supplementing praise with ideas on how to perform even better, and discouraged calling
children smart or intelligent and rather focussing the praise on their effort and perseverance.
Societally, smartness and intelligence are usually pretty fixed concepts and labelling can lead to a
fixed mindset, whereas effort and perseverance are understood as actions one can engage in and,
hence rather lead to a growth mindset.
Teaching a Growth Mindset. Instead of praising and criticising in a different way, it is
also possible to teach people the growth mindset. Teaching includes understanding
neuroplasticity (the ability of the brain to change), improving goal setting, and finding strategies
to achieve one’s goals. According to Dweck (2000), children understanding how their brain work
and understanding that it is not fixed but changes all the time, are more prone to develop a
growth-oriented mindset. Neuroplasticity should be explained with examples and exercises.
Setting goals, the focus is on self-development, which means the goals should be compared to
oneself (better performance than e.g. last week). Furthermore, when a previously set goal seems
to be unachievable, one should put forward more effort or consider changing one’s strategy
before giving up or setting a lower goal.
To know what the results of a growth mindset are it is helpful to look into the literature.
The meta-analytic review by Burnette, O'Boyle, VanEpps, Pollack, and Finkel (2013) gives a
comprehensive overview of how mindsets influence the way we think and act. Most importantly,
incremental beliefs predict goal setting, goal operating, and goal monitoring. Within goal setting,
incremental beliefs are positively linked to learning goals and negatively linked to performance
goals. Learning goals means one sets goals to master a skill and they are usually linked to
personal interest and intrinsic motivation. Performance goals mean one sets goals to achieve
something like a particular score or being better than others and is usually linked to extrinsic
factors like social acceptance. Within goal operating, having a growth mindset predicted more
mastery-oriented strategies and less helpless-oriented strategies. Employing mastery-oriented
strategies means putting more efforts into it when faced with setbacks or difficulties. Employing
helpless-oriented strategies means difficulties and setbacks might cause one to withdraw from
the goal or set an easier one. Within goal monitoring, incremental theories predicted expectations
and less negative emotions. Expectations mean whether one believes to be able to pursue the
goals, whereas negative emotions mean whether one feels bad about possible discrepancies or
anxious about future progress.
The abovementioned concepts all fall under the umbrella of self-regulation. They relate
positively to goal achievement and make it easier to pursue goals and overcome adversity of any
Apart from the overall benefits found in the meta-analysis by Burnette et al. (2013),
more specific benefits of growth mindsets have been found as well. Some of the many more
specific benefits were: decreased stereotype threat (e.g. Aronson, Fried, & Good, 2002),
decreased aggression (e.g. Bak, Midgley, Zhu, Wistoft, & Obel, 2015; Yeager, Trzesniewski, &
Dweck, 2013), higher motivation (e.g. Aronson et al., 2002), higher grades at school (e.g.
Aronson et al., 2002; Yeager et al., Dweck, 2013), better self-regulation (Burnette et al., 2013)
and increased happiness (Dweck, 2000).
In the following section, I will lay out the ways growth mindsets have been successfully
promoted in three different areas: education, business, and sports. I only briefly describe the
interventions but the exemplary protocols can be found in the respective appendix. Please note
that the intention of this part of the review is focused on the content of the interventions and not
to the specific results as they are suspected to be similar and, in general, have been described in
the above. Hence, the question I aim to answer is: what are validated means by which growth
mindsets are strengthened in different domains.
For this study, the literature was reviewed for experiments that successfully induced
and/or strengthened a growth mindset and described their intervention. Particularly, the
information is summarised and synthesised. Then, an overview is given with the typical features
of successful interventions in different domains. Detailed intervention protocols for exemplary
studies can be found in the appendices. A comparison is given within and between the different
domains, which weren’t pre-specified but depended on the search results.
Search Strategy
The PsycINFO database was searched for relevant information. PubMed and Business
Source Premier were experimented but resulted in replicated or non-relevant entries. The search
was executed in August 2016 and included all sources available at that time. The database was
searched for entries containing all of the three following concepts:
1.) Mindsets ("implicit theor*" OR "belief system*" OR "epistemological belief*" OR
"epistemic belief*" OR "theory of mind" OR TI mindset*),
2.) Self-regulation ("self regul*" OR "self-efficacy" OR "self-control" OR "resilience"), and
3.) Intervention (intervention* OR strateg* OR training OR program*).
Inclusion Criteria. A publication had to meet several criteria to be included in this
review. Most importantly, it had to be an intervention study explaining how the intervention was
designed. Furthermore, it had to be written in English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, or Dutch.
The systematic search initially resulted in 120 publications. All of these have been
checked for relevance by reading the title and, where necessary, abstract. Of the 23 retained
publications, three were not accessible at the moment of search (Barzegar & Sahdipoor, 2011;
Castañeda Figueiras, Pineda Gómez, Martínez, & Somoza, 2010; and Gerber & Wild, 2004). Of
the remaining 20 papers, none were removed because of the language they were written in (i.e.
all were published in English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, or Dutch), and 17 were excluded by
insufficient information about the
interventions, which led to the three
papers included through systematic
search. Manually, five additional
relevant articles were included that
either referenced or were referenced
by articles from the systematic search
results (see Figure 1). Next, a
methodological quality assessment
was conducted to lend better studies
more weight (see Table 1). The total
scores range from 10 to 17 out of 21.
The paper of Bak, Midgley, Zhu,
Wistoft, and Obel (2015) scored
lowest because of poor amount of
disclosed information.
Figure 1: Flow Chart of Included Articles
Table 1: Methodological Quality Assessment of Included Articles, Following Law et al. (1998)
Questions: 1) was there a clear statement of the purpose and aims of the research? 2) is a qualitative methodology appropriate for this study? 3) was relevant background literature
reviewed? 4) is the study design appropriate for the research questions and objectives? 5) was a theoretical perspective identified? 6) does the study describe the methods used to
generate data? 7) was the method appropriate for the study design type? 8) were participants relevant to the research question and was their selection well-reasoned? 9) was
sampling done until saturation or redundancy in data was reached? 10) was informed consent obtained and is it clear why some individuals chose not to participate? 11) Is there a
clear and complete description of the site, participants and researcher’s credentials? Is the role of the researcher and his/her relationship with participants and identification of the
researchers’ assumptions clearly described? 12) were the data collection strategies comprehensive enough to support rich and robust descriptions of the observed events? 13) were
the data collection methods appropriate for the research objectives and settings? 14) was the data analysis inductive and the findings adequately corroborated? 15) were findings
consistent with and reflective of data? 16) was a decision trail developed and rules of analysis reported? 17) was the process of transforming data into themes/codes described
adequately? 18) did a meaningful picture of the phenomenon under study emerge? 19) was triangulation reported? 20) were conclusions appropriate given the study findings? and
21) did the findings contribute to theory development and future practice or research?
Table 2 shows an overview of the included studies by participants, country of study,
outcome measure, and results. In total, there were five studies concerning education, two studies
in the area of business, and one study in the domain of sports. I first describe the domains
education, business, and sports separately, going into detail what principles were used to induce
and strengthen a growth mindset. Then, I synthesise the information from the different domains
and describe the similarities between them.
Growth mindset research stems from this area and, hence, five of the eight included
articles examined growth mindset in mostly secondary school and university education. Mueller
and Dweck (1998) and Yeager and Dweck (2012) found that following the originally proposed
way of praise was indeed helpful. Children were taught encountering adversities and challenges
can be overcome by increasing one’s effort, strategy change, asking help from others, and
patience. Subsequently, these children scored higher on resilience and other measures showing
their increased ability to perform. Yeager, Trzesniewski, and Dweck (2013) focused on
explaining the malleability of personal characteristics like shyness and observed reduced
aggression in school. Blackwell, Trzesniewski, and Dweck (2007) laid out an actual 8 session
workshop plan on fostering a growth mindset (see appendix 3). Aronson, Fried, and Good (2002)
used numerous attitude change techniques designed to teach them, help them internalize, and
make cognitively available the notion that intelligence is expandable(p 116). Additionally, the
pupils had to write letters to imaginary 7th graders explaining that intelligence is expandable.
Table 2: Included Studies
Note: * for this study the protocol is provided in the appendix.
Participants: n, age,
Country of Study
Outcome measure
Aronson, Fried, & Good
Students: 109, NR, NR
SAT scores
The intervention led to improved grades, especially in
African Americans.
Blackwell, Trzesniewski, &
Dweck (2007)*
Students: 99, NR (7th
grade), 50/49
Math grades, motivation, theory
of intelligence
Better math grades and more incremental mindset
compared to control. Some of the students from the
experimental group showed obvious increased motivation
in the classroom.
Good, Aronson, & Inzlicht
Low-income students,
largely Hispanic: 138, NR
(7th grade), 62/76
Texas Assessment of Academic
Skills (math and reading)
Gender gap disappeared with intervention
Limpo & Alves (2014)
213, 11.1 (SD = 0.7),
Implicit Theories of Writing
Subjects scored better on the ITW and wrote longer and
better texts.
Yeager, Trzesniewski, &
Dweck (2013)*
246, 14-16, 127/103
GPA, absence for classes,
lateness in core subjects,
implicit theory, aggression
The intervention reduced levels of aggression, conduct
problems, depression, and absence. Increased resilience.
Bak et al. (2015)
All staff members of
social club
Frequency of incidence of
physical force in high-risk
conflicts; staff sick leave
Reduced force incident, average staff sick leave
associated with decreased frequency of people coming to
the social club trying to physically damage themselves or
Pollack, Burnette, & Hoyt
Undergrad students: 51,
19.24 (SD = 1.32),
women only
Implicit Self-Theory of
Leadership; Self-Efficacy for
Leadership (pre-and post-
intervention); Self-Esteem;
Perception of Threat
More self-efficacy after threats to personal ability and
business success.
Golby & Wood (2016)*
Student-athlete rowers:
16, 21.42 (SD = 3.75),
women only
Sports-related mental
toughness; psychological
performance; self-esteem; self-
efficacy; life orientation;
positive and negative affect
Increased mental toughness, perceived self-efficacy, self-
esteem, and positive affect.
These are just quick examples of possible interventions. Studying the literature, I found certain
characteristics that were used in most, if not all, interventions to strengthen a growth mindset: 1)
teaching neuroanatomy and neuroplasticity, 2) discuss action motivation and stereotyping, and 3)
reproduce the learnt material either by a) applying knowledge to own or imaginary situations, or
b) teaching others.
Neuroanatomy and Neuroplasticity. This topic always included an explanation of the
general anatomy of the brain and neurones and then went into how the brain can change, usually
illustrated with lively videos, animations, and/or pictures. Special focus was on how thinking in a
certain way creates or strengthens neuronal connections and how the brain grows when learning
something new. A special focus was on difficult and challenging material, that easily leads to
frustration and giving up, making the brain grow even more. Neuroplasticity was explained to
show how the brain, which contains behaviours, emotions, etc. can and will change with effort
and experience. Usually, a special focus was put on how intelligence is malleable (see e.g. Good,
Aronson, & Inzlicht, 2003; Yeager & Dweck, 2012).
Motivation and Stereotyping. This topic included various ways of personal motivation
to act in certain ways as well as explaining the possible consequences of stereotyping. People are
different and have different needs. Usually, these needs make people behave in a certain way.
This behaviour might be evaluated stupid, rude, etc. but looking behind the façade, people often
just acted in a certain way to make themselves feel better. For example, a child might bully her
peer to get the attention she does not get enough of at home. Just looking at the first part of the
previous sentence will usually already evoke a judgment, e.g. she is aggressive, she likes to bully
people, she is anti-social, etc., where, in fact, the underlying motivation might just be to get more
attention (Dweck, 2000). This notion goes hand in hand with stereotyping which was mostly
introduced with examples and discussions (see e.g. Blackwell et al., 2007).
Reproduction of Learnt Material. This step was last in all the reviewed articles. The
learners had to reproduce the knowledge, which is an excellent way of consolidating a message.
There were various ways in which the learners had to reproduce the material: in discussions,
writing, applying it to imaginary situations, etc. It was usually chosen to be the last step because
they then had learnt and understood how a growth mindset works and why it is important (see
e.g. Good et al., 2003; Yeager et al., 2013).
Despite several research papers looking at the beneficial effect of a growth mindset in
business, only two intervention studies were included in this review. One reason for this could be
businesses using techniques without wanting to reveal the exact techniques used. That is why in
the domain of business, it has been very difficult to compare interventions studies. In both, Bak,
Midgley, Zhu, Wistoft, and Obel (2015) and Pollack, Burnette, and Hoyt (2012), neuroplasticity
was mentioned to some extent. In the study by Bak et al. (2015), it has been very difficult to
actually identify what the researchers used because they just give a link to a website
(, from which resources have been used, which is reflected in the low score in
the quality assessment (Table 2). I do not go into further detail of their intervention. The
intervention by Pollack et al. (2012) gave participants a growth mindset news article to shape
their way of thinking about entrepreneurial ability. The news article can be found in appendix 6.
Believing in the possibility of increasing one’s athletic and psychological ability is
inherent in the sport. In the search, only one intervention study was found that explicitly worked
with the concept of the growth mindset. The intervention study by Golby and Wood (2016)
focussed on three main areas of intervention. In the first, they explained the athletes’
psychological wellbeing and mental toughness and provided them with a logbook for self-
reflection. In the second they introduced the concepts of self-talk, thought-stopping, and thought
control, accompanied with concentration skills and focus. Lastly, they worked with the athletes
to build self-confidence and practice positive imagery. Their whole protocol, which can be found
in appendix 7, is built on the work of Dweck (2009) and Goldberg (1998).
The aim of the present study was to see what are validated means by which growth
mindsets are strengthened in different domains. A growth mindset, the belief one’s abilities and
skills are malleable, can have large influences on us (Dweck, 2000). The results have been
divided into three domains: education, business, and sports. Looking at the different
interventions used in the three areas examined, it is visible the notion of malleable intelligence
was introduced in some way, in education settings mostly teaching about neuroanatomy.
Additionally, most studies made the participants reproduce or apply the growth mindset, this was
done sometimes by lecturing peers about it, or applying it to own or imaginary situations.
In general, growth mindsets lead to better use of goal setting, goal operating, and goal
monitoring, all of which are related to superior goal achievement (Burnette, O'Boyle, VanEpps,
Pollack, & Finkel, 2013). In specific areas, the adoption of a growth mindset has also been
shown to lead to a more tangible change such as decreased aggression in school (Yeager,
Trzesniewski, & Dweck (2013), decreased aggression (Bak, Midgley, Zhu, Wistoft, & Obel,
2015), increased happiness (Dweck, 2000) and others. However, even though mindsets influence
how we see the world in general, many of us have different mindsets for different domains
(Burnette et al., 2013). It could be you say your drawing skills are malleable and you will
improve them every time you draw but that you simply are not a dancer and this will not change
ever. In this example, you would have a growth mindset about drawing but a fixed mindset about
dancing abilities. This is actually a common phenomenon (Dweck, 2000). Because of its
apparent universal usefulness, it would be helpful to develop a growth mindset and everything
that comes with it, not in one but all domains.
Self-regulatory skills, which include goal setting, goal operating, and goal monitoring,
have been investigated in regard to their association with achievement. In general, self-regulatory
skills are fostered in environments using goal-setting and feedback (Boekaerts, 1997; Boekaerts
& Corno, 2005), such as, for example, organised sport. Research shows self-regulation to be
associated with success not only in sport (Cleary & Zimmerman, 2001), but also in physical
education (Kitesantas & Zimmerman, 1998), music (Nielsen, 2001), and academia (Zimmerman,
1986, 1998, 2002). In related studies, subcomponents of self-regulation were able to predict
achievement in education (Martín, Martínez-Arias, Marchesi, & Pérez, 2008; Miller & Byrnes,
2001; Nota, Soresi, & Zimmerman, 2004; Veenman & Spaans, 2005). Also in a sports setting,
self-regulatory skills suggest having predictive value of later athletic success (e.g. Toering,
Elferink-Gemser, Jordet, & Visscher, 2009; van Yperen & Duda, 1999).
If organised sport is an environment fostering self-regulatory skills, we would expect
athletes use self-regulatory skills frequently. And if athletes use a lot of self-regulatory skills in
their sport and these are transferable to other domains (e.g. education, work, family, etc.), we
would expect athletes to perform well in other domains, too.
It has been shown that more successful athletes use self-regulatory skills more
frequently than non-athletic counterparts (Jonker, Elferink-Gemser, Toering, Lyons, & Visscher,
2010). This can be explained by acknowledging their strength and weaknesses (Anshel & Porter,
1996), setting more specific goals, using better selected technique-oriented strategies
(Zimmerman, 2000), reflecting more and being more motivated to invest (Toering et al., 2009),
and being more self-directed and independent (Anshel, 1995; Anshel & Porter, 1996). It has been
shown elite athletes are used to working on self-conscious, goal-oriented, and problem-focused
behaviours in a goal-directed environment with the goal of improving their performances
(Durand-Bush & Salmela, 2002; Orlick & Partington, 1988; Van Yperen & Duda, 1999). This
behaviour could be expected to be beneficial in an academic environment as well.
More recently, research has been conducted to investigate whether self-regulatory skills
could be transferred from one domain to another. Van der Stel and Veenman (2008) and Veenman
and Spaans (2005) found a transfer to be possible depending on age. In their studies, pupils from
approximately 12 years of age seemed to start transferring their knowledge of self-regulation
from one subject to another.
In sports, research indeed has shown collegiate athletes do not just perform
exceptionally on the playing field but are also high achievers in the classroom (Aries, McCarthy,
Salovey, & Banaji, 2004). For collegiate athletes, sport and higher education are much more
linked. However, in Europe, athletes mostly do not compete for their education institution but for
an unrelated club. In their study of Dutch elite youth athletes aged 12-16, Jonker, Elferink-
Gemser, and Visscher (2009, 2011) found them to be attending pre-university education in
considerably higher rates than the national average (78,8% vs. 44%, respectively) and taking
notably fewer retakes than the average (11.2% vs. 23.8%, respectively). Pre-university education
compared to pre-vocational education is more demanding and pupils have to be higher achievers
(Nuffic, 2011).
Even though further research into the transfer of self-regulatory skills across domains is
still needed, indications of a possible transfer exist. Until now, the only direction examined has
been transferring the skills from elite sports to academia, as well as between subjects at schools.
To be able to use this knowledge in a broader scope, it has also to be assessed whether
recreational sport offers a similar value in terms of increased self-regulatory skills.
Wrapping up, various components of the growth mindset, namely goal setting, goal
operating, and goal monitoring, as well as reflection, seem to be transferable. Various studies
have shown competitive athletes not only score higher in these skills in their sports environment
but are also high academic achievers and apparently use the skills learned in sports to perform in
academia. It cannot yet be said whether this transfer is general, and any discipline fostering the
development of self-regulation allows to transfer these to other domains.
Limitations and Future Research
The present study has several limitations. First, the literature search resulted in very few
studies that could actually be used. Additional literature could have been available if not only
psycINFO had been consulted. I did perform the same search in other databases (PubMed,
Business Source Premier), but it seemed to have received only duplicated or irrelevant results,
and I decided not to use them. Also, only academic articles were included and no books, and
three potentially interesting papers were not accessible. The biggest exclusion criterium of
papers content-wise interesting was insufficient available information about the actual
interventions. Much more published work exists that induced a growth mindset without ever
mentioning how exactly it was accomplished. I traced other experiments actually describing their
interventions through cross-referencing and did find five additional ones. This might hint to
either badly used key terms of these papers, or a badly used search terms. Furthermore, the
methodological quality assessment has only been rated by one assessor.
This study presents evidence of several methods that have been successfully used to
strengthen a growth mindset in different domains. It also shows these methods are actually very
similar. Even though the number of studies analysed is just eight, the methodological quality of
seven of them is good and all of them presented large-scale positive outcomes. Adding an
overview of general benefits and the possibility of transfer of mindset makes this paper so
comprehensive. Readers only reading this paper and knowing little less about mindsets should be
able to know about domain-specific, and general benefits and how to implement an intervention
to foster a growth mindset.
For future research, it is necessary to continue along the current lines of investigating
mindsets, however, publishing the intervention protocol as well. This makes evaluation,
development, and replication much easier.
Across domains, growth mindsets are mostly strengthened and induced teaching
neuroanatomy and neuroplasticity, and letting the learners apply their newly received knowledge.
Exemplary protocols on how to do this can be found in the appendices. Further, mindsets can be
different in different domains. The transfer of a growth mindset from one to another domain is
possible, particularly after age 12.
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Appendix 1: Meta-Analytic Results from Burnette, OBoyle, VanEpps, Pollack, and Finkel
Note. Effect size estimates for the direct effects (solid lines) are observed correlations (r); effect
size estimates for the moderational effects (dotted lines) are regression coefficients (B). Due to
limitations in the published data (see discussion for elaboration), the effect size estimates come
from separate analyses investigating each path rather than from a simultaneous model estimating
all or multiple paths.
Appendix 2: Malleable Pen Pal Orientation by Aronson, Fried, and Good (2002)
Aronson et al. (2002) told their participants in the experimental group they would be
mentoring young students. For both conditions the first session started the same: The
experimenter (White female) introduced herself as an educational psychologist working with an
organization called “Scholastic Pen Pals.” The purported role of Scholastic Pen Pals was to set
up one-time letter exchanges between young, educationally “at risk” middle school students and
college students. The purpose of the exchange was to give the younger students encouragement,
to show them that successful college students had once been like them, but had overcome their
struggles to find eventual success. After a brief introduction to the program’s procedures and
philosophy, participants were informed that they would answer one letter from a seventh grader.
In each case, the middle-schooler was characterized as coming from an impoverished community
and could thus benefit from having an elder role model. The true purpose of the letter writing
was to convince half of the pen pals themselves of the expandable nature of intelligence.
Middle school student letters. To increase believability, all letters received by the
participants were handwritten and sealed in envelopes. Some students received letters written by
boys, others received letters from girls, but the letters made no reference to race. The content of
the letters was otherwise the same; the child described some difficulties he or she was having in
school in addition to describing favorite subjects and activities. After reading the letters,
participants were given instructions for writing their replies that varied as a function of condition.
Malleable Pen Pal Orientation. Participants in this condition were asked to write a reply
that would encourage their pen pals to work hard in spite of their difficulties. In addition to
whatever they wanted to offer in the way of encouragement, participants were told that it would
be particularly helpful to incorporate a theme stressing what research was revealing about the
nature of human intelligence. They were asked to impress upon their pen pals the view that
intelligence is not a finite endowment, but rather an expandable capacity that grows “like a
muscle”—with mental work. They were further told: Because intelligence is malleable, humans
are capable of learning and mastering new things at any time in their lives. This message is
especially important to get across to young, struggling students. If these students view
intelligence as a fixed quantity, they may feel that they are incapable of learning if they
encounter difficulty with their school work. If, however, students can be convinced that
intelligence expands with hard work, they may be more likely to remain in school and put effort
into learning. To reinforce the scientific validity of this message, participants were shown a brief
video clip that discussed how the brain, and hence intelligence, is capable of growing and
making new connections throughout life. The clip included a vivid color animation of the brain
developing new neurons, while a voiceover reported that brain researchers were discovering how
the brain grows in response to intellectual challenge.
Appendix 3: Intervention Protocol from Blackwell, Trzesniewski, & Dweck (2007); only
includes intervention group protocol
Sessions 1 and 2: The Brain: Structure and Function.
Using illustrative slides, ‘‘Brain Fact’’ cards, and activities, we taught all students in
both conditions some of the basic facts about the anatomy and function of the brain. These
included the fact that the brain consists of several regions that have different functions, such as
sensory and motor, higher cognition, and memory; that it is divided into two hemispheres,
connected by a bundle of nerve fibers; that it is connected to and transmits information to and
from the body through the spinal cord; and that it is composed of billions of nerve cells, which
are connected in a complicated network. We explained how information passes from nerve cell to
nerve cell through a series of electrical and chemical signals, and illustrated this principle by
having the students act as neurons and form an information chain along which an impulse, or
message, was passed. Students also engaged in an ‘‘experiment’’ in which they mapped the touch
sensitivity at various places (arm, hand, neck), and viewed a slide showing a ‘‘homunculus,’’
representing the differing amounts of brain area devoted to each part of the body.
Sessions 3 and 4: Theory Intervention/Memory Unit
The students in this group took turns reading aloud an age-appropriate article written by
the first author, ‘‘You Can Grow Your Intelligence.’’ The article described the changes that occur
in the brain as a result of learning, including formation of new and stronger connections between
nerve cells, and discussed scientific research findings that show how mental activity results in
measurable physical changes in the brain. The article compared the brain with a muscle that can
be developed with exercise, and concluded that learning makes you smarter. After the reading,
the mentors led students in a discussion in which they were asked to think of things they had
learned to do well, and to recall how practice had been the key to attaining mastery. They also
discussed how their brains had changed as a result of this learning, and how they had actually
become smarter. Finally, to reinforce the message, the students completed an activity page in
which they traced a ‘‘Neural Network Maze’’ spelling out the word ‘‘SMARTER’’ to illustrate
what happens when one learns something new.
Sessions 5 and 6: Stereotypes; Study Skills
To counteract negative stereotypes regarding gender and race prevalent among some
students, we included a lesson on the pitfalls of stereotyping the self and others. In addition, we
reasoned that without knowledge of techniques for putting enhanced motivation to use, students
might become stalled at the outset, while skills in the absence of motivation should not produce
as much benefit. Thus, we incorporated a study skills lesson for all students, to provide the
rudimentary tools needed to put motivation to work, as well as to offer a rationale for and benefit
of the workshop for all students.
In a double session during the students regular science class time, all students
participated first in the unit on stereotyping, in which they viewed slides of diverse people and
guessed their occupations, and then did an exercise in which they wrote occupations that they
believed themselves capable or incapable of attaining in or outside a box figure. Workshop
leaders then revealed the true occupations of the people pictured in the slides, and led a
discussion of the nature of stereotyping and the pitfalls of limiting oneself or othersambitions
according to preconceived ideas. They explained that our need to categorize objects in our
environment and to make quick evaluations of them, while natural and adaptive in some
situations, could lead to prejudice and mistaken assumptions about people and situations that
is, stereotypes. Such stereotypes, they explained, might even work against a student’s own
potential, if negative perceptions of his or her group were common.
In the second half of the class, mentors gave a presentation on study skills. Topics
included goal setting, time management tips, and strategies for studying, remembering,
understanding, and organizing material. For example, we discussed time management techniques
such as breaking up longer term projects into several parts with shorter term finish-by dates;
study strategies such as outlining chapters, making index cards with important terms and
definitions, and working with a partner to quiz themselves on these; memory tips such as writing
summaries of what they read, visualizing what they read or heard, and reading out loud; and
comprehension strategies such as reading assigned questions before reading material, and
reading over notes from class at the end of the day. At the end of the presentation, we handed out
folders containing summary presentation notes and planner pages, along with a set of basic tools
(highlighter, index cards, etc.).
Sessions 7 and 8: Discussions Motivational
The students engaged in two discussions, led by their workshop leaders, exploring the
significance of the fact that the brain could grow and get stronger through practice. In the first
session, the mentors asked the students to think of those things they had learned to do well, and
to recall how they had been inept at the beginning but had learned, through error and practice, to
excel. Discussion stressed that the mistakes they made in the course of learning had been
necessary and even helped them learn, and that they had actually grown smarter in the course of
learning: Their brains had changed, developed new connections, and strengthened existing ones.
The discussion concluded with the message that everything you learn makes you smarter, and
that being smart is a choice you make.
In the second discussion, workshop leaders discussed labels people give one another,
such as ‘‘stupid’’ or ‘‘brainiac,’’ based on how well they perform at certain tasks. They then
discussed how these labels, which are really a form of stereotyping, can make people afraid to try
or work hard in school for fear of looking stupid or appearing to be a ‘‘nerd,’’ and that this
mounts to self-handicapping: holding oneself back from actually learning and becoming smarter
and better at things. We concluded with the message that ‘‘Everything is hard before it is easy.’’
Appendix 4: Information Incremental Condition Good, Aronson, & Inzlicht. (2003)
Incremental condition. Participants in this condition learned that intelligence is not a
finite endowment, but rather an expandable capacity that increases with mental work. To
reinforce the scientific validity of this perspective, the mentors taught students some facts about
the brain and how it works. For example, students learned about the role of neurons and
dendrites and how the brain is capable of forming new neural connections throughout one’s life.
In addition to hearing this perspective directly from the mentors, students also explored the
restricted web space to learn in more detail how the brain works. For example, numerous web
pages within the restricted web incorporated animated pictures of the brain, scientific images of
neurons and dendrites, and narrative explanations to demonstrate how the brain forms new neural
connections when it is engaged in effortful problem solving. Other pages contained various
testimonies and catch phrases regarding the expandability of intelligence, such as “The mind is a
muscle; the more you use it, the stronger it grows.” (p 10).
Appendix 5: Protocol of Yeager Trzesniewski, & Dweck (2013)
Activities: Team-building; lectures; complete “brain challenge” worksheets.
Message: Neuroanatomy + How the brain changes with learning.
The objective of the first two sessions was to teach about neurons, and to introduce the
idea that the brains is malleable and can be changed with effort and experience (cf.
Blackwell et al., 2007). We started our intervention by teaching about the malleability
of intelligence because, in pilot studies, students found this material to be a helpful
analogy for understanding how other traits could change through effort, experience,
and help from others.
Activities: Lectures; practice using the incremental theory in response to hypothetical
rejections or interpersonal conflicts.
Message: People’s personalities live partially in their brains, and brains can be
Days 3 and 4 were designed to provide the bulk of the material teaching an incremental
theory of personality. The sessions began with a discussion of famous people who
encountered and overcame social rejection, so that students could discuss role models
for whom social adversity did not last forever. Next, the workshop transitioned to an
explanation of the mechanisms that support the incremental view of personality.
Specifically, the facilitators told students:
Scientists have discovered that people do things mainly because of the thoughts and
feelings that they havethoughts and feelings that live in the brain and that can be
changed. When you have a thought or a feeling, the pathways in your brain send
signals to other parts of your brain that lead you to do one thing or another... By
changing their brain’s pathways or their thoughts and feelings, people can actually
change and improve how they behave after challenges and setbacks. So it’s not that
some people are “rejects” or that other people are “bad.” Everyone’s brain is a
“work in progress.”
Students were next presented with scientific evidence explaining that people’s habits
live in the brain and can be changed. For example, they were shown images of fMRIs
from patients who had relocalized various functions after brain traumas and were told
about the impact this had on their behavior. Additionally, facilitators presented the
results of longitudinal studies documenting changes in people’s traits (like aggression
or peer rejection) over time. Students completed targeted writing assignments in which
they practiced applying the incremental theory to reconstrue a variety of social
adversities, such as exclusion, rejection, and aggression.
Activities: Write and perform skits using the incremental message in response to
rejection or conflict; small-group discussions; final writing assignments.
Message: People have many motivations for their actions besides their personalities
(like thoughts and feelings), and some of these can also change.
These sessions were designed to cement the incremental theory in students’ minds, to
practice it in additional scenarios, and to correct misconceptions. For example, a group
of boys and a group of girls each separately created a skit in which they acted out a
conflict with aggressive students in school or an experience of social rejection and used
an incremental theory in response to it. During these skits, students did not practice
new ways to solve these problems, but instead focused on how to think about the
problem through the lens of an incremental theory. Students also broke up into same-
sex pairs and practiced presenting the incremental theory to each other. During this
activity, one partner was an “alien from the planet of the entity theory,” whereas the
other partner was responsible for explaining the incremental theory to the “alien,” who
pretended to have never heard of the incremental theory before. In another activity,
students again broke up into two small groups, and various misconceptions were
corrected. Specifically, this conversation centered on the following questions: (a) Does
a growth mindset mean that I will change into a completely different person from one
day to the next? If I’m a moral person today, does the growth mindset mean that I
could be an evil person tomorrow? (b) My family member has a bad habitis it my
job to change them by myself? and (c) If the people who pick on me or are aggressive
toward me aren’t “bad,” does that mean it’s my fault for getting picked on? The
facilitators discussed why the answer was “No” to each of these questions. Finally,
students were asked to write about “one time when you felt left out, rejected, or upset
by an acquaintance at school” and then to “imagine that the same event you described
happened to another student just like you” and say something to help the future ninth
grader “understand that they can change and that the things that are happening to them
could change.” As one typical example, a female participant in our study wrote:
Recently, people have been calling me mean names. The most common is “loner.” ...
Although I was very upset, I have gotten over it ... the insults aren’t going to last
forever. As they mature and change they’ll stop acting so foolish. ... And I know that as
I grow and get older I’ll develop more friends.
Appendix 6: Presented Article Pollack, Burnette, and Hoyt (2012)
Appendix 7: Protocol of Golby and Wood (2016)
Rationale/Advice from Goldberg (1998)
Personal Introductions
Lead and supporting researcher introduce themselves to the
group, provide a background and focus on building a
Purpose of the PST
Highlight the importance of psychological characteristics
in rowing, concepts of psychological well-being and
mental toughness introduced.
Athletes were asked to record their physical and
psychological preparations, progress, general thoughts and
concerns in a personal logbook. They were advised to keep
this up to date and granted the freedom to complete this
however they wished. This practise has been found to
increase athlete’s sense of self-awareness (Hardy, Roberts
& Hardy, 2009), developing an awareness of one’s
cognitions is a fundamental part of psychological skills
training (Gould, 1998).
Assessment 1
Feedback from the
squad’s first
As a squad, from the psychological constructs assessed,
confidence was particularly low. This is understandable
due to the nascent nature of the squad and lack of success
to date. Placing this into context, the Lead Researcher
discussed the importance of formulating task-oriented
goals, which focus on mastery; rather than ego-oriented
goals driven by success, encouraging athletes to aspire to
perform better than their previous each time.
Technique 1: Self-Talk
This session outlined how self-talk is nothing more than
internal dialogue/thoughts (Bunker, Williams & Zinnser,
1993). Following this, the lead discussed the implications
of negative self-talk on athletic performance, drawing upon
real life examples from professional practise and asked
athletes to become more aware of their thoughts during
practise and performance, whilst monitoring which
thoughts hinder and which seem to facilitate their
Technique 2: Thought-
This is an inhibition strategy whereby athletes use a verbal
or nonverbal cue to acknowledge and suspend unhelpful
thoughts (Zinsser et al., 2010). The disruption of the
thought has been found to increase the athlete’s sense of
self-awareness - however rowers were made aware of the
detrimental effects which may arise when they focus on
what “notto think (i.e., hyper accessibility).
Technique 3: Thought
To avoid “hyper accessibility(Wegner & Erber, 1992)
athletes were informed not to consciously try to diminish
the thought, but to demonstrate an awareness and observe it
passing through their consciousness. Athletes were advised
to incorporate idiosyncratic positive, supportive thoughts,
daily (Gould, 1998: p. 29). Such as “I will always strive to
do the best I can”.
Technique 4:
Concentration Skills &
The rowers were introduced to the “here and now
principal”, importance of “controlling their eyes and ears
and effective ways to do this (e.g., performance rituals).
They were asked to consider what performance rituals they
currently engage with to help get “in the zone”.
Assessment 2
3 Feedback from the
squad’s second
Confidence had improved but it was still relatively low,
visualisation was still quite low at this point too. Feedback
and session content was geared towards enhancing
confidence in preparation for the rowers upcoming race.
Building self-
confidence - Awareness
of “U”
According to Goldstein (1998) confidence is the product of
hard work. Psychological skills and a positive outlook must
be accompanied by consistent effort and dedication to
training. The “no deposit, no returnformula was discussed
with the athletes.
Technique 5: Expect
success and Positive
This session touched upon the importance of expecting
success after doing all you can to perform to your best and
introduced athletes to coping and mastery imagery
(including ways in which they can be implemented and the
importance of ample practise and individual reflection).
Imagery works well for some athletes, and not so well for
others, therefore athletes were advised to practise different
techniques at different times (days before a race versus just
before the race), to decipher “what works best”.
Individual sessions to reiterate the information covered and address personal issues
and concerns
Assessment 3
Psychometric scores
The athletes received the squads results over the three
assessments, the findings were interpreted by the lead
Appendix 8: Extra: Brainology, retrieved from:
Brainology is an online game for pupils developed by Carol Dweck and colleagues. After
signing-up for a trial I found the following themes to be taught through different games and tasks.
o Motivation: Everyone can learn! Exercising the brain makes it grow, just like
exercising muscles makes them stronger.
o Concentration: Attention is like the spotlight of your mind. Whatever you
shine that spotlight on, you will learn.
o Organization: Support your brain's work at learning with the tools and
materials that make its job easier.
o Memory: Knowing about the three types of memory and how they work is a
key to making them work for you.
o Learning: Decide to learn, and you can and will. You're in control.
o Strategy: Flashcards work because they support the creation of long term
o Stress: Reduce stress and be calmer in anxious moments with "Square
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Full-text available
In order to manage with the burden of mental health problems in the world we need to develop cost-effective and safe preventive interventions. Education about resilience to support the ability to cope with life challenges in general, may be a useful strategy. We consider the concepts of Theory of Mind and Mentalization to be relevant in this context. In this paper we describe a simple modular intervention program based on these concepts which can be tailored to specific needs and situations in individual therapy as well as group levels. The program has shown promising results in pilot studies and is now tested in controlled trials in settings such as schools and educational institutions, adults diagnosed with ADHD, and children in care.
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Full-text available
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.
Success in sport and school is related to self-regulation. Additionally, sport experts are high academic achievers. We examined the role of 6 self-regulatory skills in the sport and academic performances of elite youth athletes (12-16 years) and compared their scores with age-matched controls in 2 academic secondary school systems (pre-university vs. pre-vocational). Pre-university students outscored pre-vocational students on 5 self-regulatory skills in the control group while 2 skills were significant in an athletes' population. When comparing elite athletes to controls within each academic system, 3 self-regulatory skills were significant. Moreover, pre-vocational athletes outscored pre-university controls on 1 skill. These results expand theories of transfer by suggesting that self-regulation may help elite youth athletes to combine a sport career with education. © 2011 International Research Association for Talent Development and Excellence.
Extracts available on Google Books (see link below). For integral text, go to publisher's website :
African American college students tend to obtain lower grades than their White counterparts, even when they enter college with equivalent test scores. Past research suggests that negative stereotypes impugning Black students' intellectual abilities play a role in this underperformance. Awareness of these stereotypes can psychologically threaten African Americans, a phenomenon known as “stereotype threat” (Steele & Aronson, 1995), which can in turn provoke responses that impair both academic performance and psychological engagement with academics. An experiment was performed to test a method of helping students resist these responses to stereotype threat. Specifically, students in the experimental condition of the experiment were encouraged to see intelligence—the object of the stereotype—as a malleable rather than fixed capacity. This mind-set was predicted to make students' performances less vulnerable to stereotype threat and help them maintain their psychological engagement with academics, both of which could help boost their college grades. Results were consistent with predictions. The African American students (and, to some degree, the White students) encouraged to view intelligence as malleable reported greater enjoyment of the academic process, greater academic engagement, and obtained higher grade point averages than their counterparts in two control groups.
The purpose of this study was to gain insight into the academic achievements of 200 talented athletes in 1992/1993 and 200 in 2006/2007, aged 14-16 years. When compared with the national average, the athletes in 2006/2007 attended pre-university classes more often (X2 = 57.001, p<.05). Of the 2006/2007 athletes, a higher percentage participated in pre-university programs compared with that of athletes in 1992/1993 (X2 (1, n = 400) = 32.003, p<.05), whereas the national averages showed stability (X2 =.325, p>.05). Investigating self-regulation appears relevant, as talented athletes may have developed a high sense of self-regulation in sports, which may enable them to optimally profit from their self-regulatory skills in their academics.
This study examined the factors that contributed to the development and maintenance of expert athletic performance. Four men and six women having won at least two gold medals at separate Olympics and/or World Championships were interviewed using an in-depth, open-ended, and semi-structured approach (Patton, 1987). The qualitative data were analyzed both inductively and deductively. Results revealed that the athletes progressed through four stages throughout their career: the Sampling, Specializing, Investment, and Maintenance Years. Common findings were that at an elite level, contextual factors included parents, coaches, teammates/ friends, support staff, other athletes, and school/education. Personal characteristics pertained to self-confidence, motivation, creativity, and perseverance. Training involved technical, tactical, physical, and mental components and was influenced by quantity, quality, intensity, and recovery. Competition factors concerned meticulous planning, evaluations, dealing with pressure, expectations, and adversity, and focusing on the process rather than the outcome of events. Implications to increase the quality of experience of athletes are discussed.
In this target article, we present evidence for a new model of individual differences in judgments and reactions. The model holds that people's implicit theories about human attributes structure the way they understand and react to human actions and outcomes. We review research showing that when people believe that attributes (such as intelligence or moral character) are fixed, trait-like entities (an entity theory), they tend to understand outcomes and actions in terms of these fixed traits (''I failed the test because I am dumb'' or ''He stole the bread because he is dishonest''). In contrast, when people believe that attributes are more dynamic, malleable, and developable (an incremental theory), they tend refocus less on broad traits and, instead, tend to understand outcomes and actions in terms of more specific behavioral or psychological mediators (''I failed the test because of my effort or strategy'' or ''He stole the bread because he was desperate''). The two frameworks also appear to foster different reactions: helpless versus mastery-oriented responses to personal setbacks and an emphasis on retribution versus education or rehabilitation for transgressions. These findings are discussed in terms of their implications for personality, motivation, and social perception.