In 1988, Dr. Dweck first presented a research-based model to show the impact of mindsets. She showed how a person’s mindset sets the stage for either performance goals or learning goals. A student with a performance goal might be worried about looking smart all the time, and avoid challenging work. On the other hand, a student with a learning goal will pursue interesting and challenging tasks in order to learn more. In subsequent studies, Dr. Dweck found that people’s theories about their own intelligence had a significant impact on their motivation, effort, and approach to challenges. Those who believe their abilities are malleable are more likely to embrace challenges and persist despite failure. This model of the fixed vs. growth mindset shows how cognitive, affective, and behavioral features are linked to one’s beliefs about the malleability of their intelligence. The graphic below demonstrates this research, and how different mindsets lead to different patterns of behavior.

Dweck, C.S. & Leggett, E.L. (1988). A Social-Cognitive Approach to Motivation and Personality

Two Mindsets

Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D. - Graphic by Nigel Holmes

Roll over the growth mindset graphics to learn more.

Embrace Challenges

Students with a growth mindset are more likely to choose a challenge than those with a fixed mindset.

View PDF White Paper:

Praise for Intelligence Can Undermine Children's Motivation and Performance

Persist in the Face of Setbacks

After a growth mindset intervention, students who were at risk of dropping out of high school had higher grade point averages in core academic courses.

Research article:

Mind-Set Interventions Are a Scalable Treatment for Academic Underachievement

See Effort as Path to Mastery

Students who understand that they can get smarter have a goal of learning, therefore they believe that effort makes them smarter and as a result exert more effort in their studies.

Research article:

Implicit Theories of Intelligence Predict Achievement Across an Adolescent Transition: A Longitudinal Study and an Intervention

Learn from Criticism

Students with a growth mindset who make mistakes pay attention to those mistakes. The brain scans show increased brain activity in those students with a growth mindset.

Research article:

Why do beliefs about intelligence influence learning success? A social cognitive neuroscience model

Find Inspiration in the Success of Others

In one study, students with a growth mindset chose to learn from others by looking at the tests of students who outperformed them. Students with a fixed mindset wanted to look at tests of those who did worse and got lower grades.

Research article:

Defensiveness Versus Remediation: Self-Theories and Modes of Self-Esteem Maintenance

As a Result, They Reach Ever-Higher Levels of Achievement

In a study that built upon existing mindset research, Blackwell and her colleagues followed hundreds of students making the transition to 7th grade. Even though the students had entered 7th grade with similar grades in math, they found that students with a growth mindset outperformed those with a fixed mindset in math. This gap that continued to increase over the two-year period and beyond.

Research article:

Implicit Theories of Intelligence Predict Achievement Across an Adolescent Transition: A Longitudinal Study and an Intervention