This article is based on “How not to talk to your kids” written by Pro Bronson
Over the past ten years, psychologist Carol Dweck and her team have studied the effect that praise has on children. Her seminal research was conducted on 400 grade five students and comprised a series of experiments which provided staggering results towards the evidence on growth mindset.
Initially, the children were required to individually perform a verbal IQ test and afterwards, the researcher provided the student with their score and a single line of praise. Half of the students were praised for their intelligence, “You must be smart at this”, and the other half were praised for their effort, “You must have worked really hard”.
Afterwards, the students were given a choice for the second round. One choice was for a more difficult test, though the researcher mentioned that the child would learn a lot from attempting the puzzle. Whereas the second choice was an easy test, similar to that of the first test. The results indicated that 90% of the children praised for their efforts chose to challenge themselves with the hard test, whereas the majority of those praised for their intelligence chose the easier test.
However, even more striking were the results from a third round of testing. The same students were provided with a difficult test designed for children two years older than the students. Although all of the students failed, there were marked differences in the childrens’ approaches and observed resilience when attempting the test. Those who were praised for effort became very involved and engaged in problem solving. Whereas those praised for their intelligence were visibly straining and miserable. In addition, these students assumed that their failure indicated that they were not actually smart.
Finally, after completing this very difficult test which intentionally induced failure, the children completed a final test which was similar in difficulty to that of the first test. The children who were praised for their effort produced an average improvement in their scores of 30%. Whereas those praised for intelligence produced significantly lower scores than the initial testing, by about 20%.
These results surpassed Dweck’s initial predictions. She had proposed that praise would backfire, however she was surprised by the magnitude of the effects seen. Dweck concluded that overall, “emphasising effort gives a child a variable that they can control” and that the children “come to see themselves as in control of their success”. In addition, these findings have been replicated in various socioeconomic groups and age groups. These praise effects equally impact both boys and girls as well as children as young as preschool age.
“Emphasising natural intelligence takes it out of the child’s control, and it provides no good recipe for responding to a failure” (Dweck).
Therefore the conclusions are undeniable, children who receive praise for their effort are inherently encouraged to adopt a growth mindset; whereas children praised for intelligence will inevitably adopt a fixed minset. The evidence has shown that growth mindset promotes determination in the face of obstacles, a positive perception of effort as the path to success and the ability to learn from criticism.
If you are interested in learning more about growth mindset and strategies to promote this in your children or students, look out for our Growth Mindset courses and webinars in the New Year.
Recommended children’s book – Making a Splash by Carol E. Reiley
Inspired by the popular mindset idea that hard work and effort can lead to success, Making A Splash is the first of its kind type of story. The book has a fun story for kids and a nonfiction part for parents. Children fall into one of two categories: Fixed and Growth. Some children have what psychologists call a Fixed Mindset. They think they only have a fixed amount of intelligence. When they try something new and fail, they’re embarrassed because they think it proves they aren’t smart enough. Other children have a growth mindset. They realize that it’s not about how smart you are today, but about how smart you can become. They value learning over looking smart. These kids understand that even geniuses must work hard. People are held back more due to their mindset than their actual capability. The best way to learn is through stories and examples; 30 pages of story + 14 pages for parents about growth mindset.