Choosing Your Words to Promote the Growth Mindset
Tom Bartlett, writing on the website of the Chronicle of Higher Education:
“Could a casual comment—something as simple as ‘Boys are really good at this game’—make children perform less well on a given task? That’s what a new paper suggests. One of the authors, Andrei Cimpian, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, answered questions via e-mail about the findings:
Q. We know from the work of Carol Dweck and others that praising a child’s intelligence, rather than his or her effort, seems to inhibit the child’s ability to carry out challenging tasks. How does your research build on that finding?
A. In this paper, we suggest that children’s ability to perform an activity may be undermined by statements that link success at that activity with membership in a social group. For example, statements to the effect that girls or boys are good at a task might signal to children, regardless of their gender, that success on this task is simply a byproduct of an inherent aptitude that the members of the relevant group possess in large amounts. In turn, this belief might impair children’s performance on this task because it often leads them to assume they have little control over the outcome: If they’re having a difficult time with this task, then that must mean that they don’t actually have what it takes to succeed, and there’s nothing that can be done about it.
In other words, rather than stepping up their efforts when they make mistakes, children who believe in the existence of such talents or aptitudes typically start to worry about how much of these supposed talents they possess. These worries take up cognitive space, so to speak, and ultimately interfere with performance.
In a nutshell, then, our argument is that statements about the abilities of groups affect children’s achievement via the beliefs they lead children to adopt—beliefs about factors, such as talent, that are presumed to be key for success but are also outside of children’s control.” Read more here.
A good reason to avoid “statements about the abilities of groups,” and focus instead on the value of the individual’s persistence and resourcefulness in carrying out the given task.