Mindset and honesty in children (DW#382)
May 01, 2018
A core difference between a growth mindset and fixed mindset is how one responds to setbacks and failures. For a person with a fixed mindset, failed attempts are tantamount to shameful failures. Success for a fixed mindset can only happen if one is able to establish their superiority over others by proving how smart one is. A setback equals a label of being not good enough, not measuring up.
For the growth mindset on the other hand, success comes from working hard to living up to your potential. Setbacks and feedback are experienced as a normal part of learning and as a motivation for working harder.
The most unsettling part of Dweck’s research perhaps is what the researchers discovered after the IQ questions were completed. The children who participated in the study were told to write letters to their peers sharing the experience of participating in the study and also reporting their scores on the problems.
What they found to their dismay was that forty percent of the children who were praised for their ability by being told how smart they were lied about their score, inflating the scores to make them look more intelligent to their friends.
In reporting on the study, Dweck laments that "What’s so alarming is that we took ordinary children and made them into liars, simply by telling them they were smart"
Ooops! It turns out that by praising our children for being smart we may be causing them to become anxious about maintaining the appearance of intelligence at all costs, even at the cost of honesty. Something none of us intends I am sure.
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