Dweck's research about intelligence and motivation, and how they are variously influenced by fixed and growth mindsets, has attracted attention from teachers trying to help underperforming students, parents concerned with why their daughters get turned off math and science, and even sports coaches and human-resources managers intent on helping clients reach higher levels of achievement.
The journal Child Development released a paper Feb. 7 co-authored by Dweck titled "Implicit Theories of Intelligence Predict Achievement Across Adolescent Transition: A Longitudinal Study and an Intervention." The research shows how at one New York City junior high school students' fixed and growth theories about intelligence affected their math grades. Over two years, she said, students with a fixed mindset experienced a downward academic trend while the others moved ahead.
The psychologists then designed an eight-week intervention program that taught some students study skills and how they could learn to be smartdescribing the brain as a muscle that became stronger the more it was used. A control group also learned study skills but they were not taught Dweck's expandable theory of intelligence. In just two months, she said, the students from the first group, compared to the control group, showed marked improvement in grades and study habits.
"What was important was the motivation," Dweck said. "The students were energized by the idea that they could have an impact on their mind." Dweck recalled a young boy who was a ringleader of the troublemakers. "When we started teaching this idea about the mind being malleable, he looked up with tears in his eyes, and he said, '
Contact: Lisa Trei