Motivation and emotion/Book/2016/Mindsets and motivation

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Mindsets and motivation:
What are mindsets and how do they affect motivation?

Overview[edit | edit source]

This book chapter overviews what motivates different types of mindsets. From reading this chapter, you should be able have knowledge on mindsets, including the definition, types of mindets, causes of the types of mindsets, and further. From there, this chapter will emphasise on what motivates people to have the type of mindset they possess, and how to alter it.

Learning Objectives
By the end of this book chapter you should be able to address the following:
  • Define mindset
  • Know the different types of mindsets
  • How to obtain a growth mindset
  • Carol Dweck's studies on mindsets
  • Association between mindsets and motivation

What is a mindset?[edit | edit source]

"When you are faced with a challenging task, do you a) complete the task, or b) watch a TV show. Your answer to this is determined by your mindset" (Steverink & Lindenberg, 2006).

A mindset is a frame of mind, or beliefs, thoughts, or a series of self-perceptions humans possess (De Young, 1986). This can determine an individual's situation, mental attitude and behaviour. For example, a mindset of "I am not good at playing the piano", will result in behaviour of not playing the piano. However, a mindset of "I haven't learnt how to play the piano properly yet", is more likely to result in practicing the piano, until[grammar?] the individual is good at playing the piano (Krakovsky, 2008).

The term mindset was first discovered by Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck. Dweck argues that individuals obtain their abilities from a variety of beliefs they hold (Mercer & Ryan, 2009). Dweck found these beliefs to be around a fixed mindset or a growth mindset (Krakovsky, 2008).

Fixed mindset[edit | edit source]

A fixed mindset is where individuals believe qualities such as talent, or intelligence, are static and cannot be changed. This fixed mindset lets the individual view their intelligence, and talents, and spend less time developing such qualities (Cecere, Mancinelli, S & Mazzanti, 2014). A person with this type of mindset believes that effort is not required to be successful as the talent and intelligence they were born with creates either success or failure (Mercer & Ryan, 2009).

People with a fixed mindset typically describe themselves as 'intelligent', or 'dumb', and will not do anything to change these abilities (Govindarajan & Gupta, 2009). When these people are also faced with a challenge, or failure, they tell others, and themselves, 'they are unable to accomplish it', or create other excuses to reason their failure (e.g., 'I failed the exam because I was busy studying for another unit, and didn't have enough time to study for this exam). This is because their egos are easily threatened, and they have a need to prove themselves (Cecere, Mancinelli, S & Mazzanti, 2014).

However, when fixed mindset individuals are trying to develop more of a growth mindset approach, or avoid situations that the person is aware is good for them, the person may feel uncomfortable, hungry, anxious, bored, tired, and therefore stop trying, or taking the approach to a growth mindset (Taylor, 2006).

Martin Seligman[edit | edit source]

Seligman criticised Dweck's work on the mindset concluding that those with a fixed mindset often expect bad outcomes. When these negative experiences occur, they explain them as personal, permanent, and pervasive (Cecere, Mancinelli, S & Mazzanti, 2014). He stresses that those with a fixed mindset can be and are successful, however they pursue perfection, rather then progress. This includes pursuing status, wealth and income, rather then focusing on intrinsic items (Cecere, Mancinelli, S & Mazzanti, 2014). However, the most known cause of a fixed mindset stems from pressures from society, typically those from Asian backgrounds (Dai, Gordon, Ye, Xu, Lin, Robinson, Woodard & Harder, 2015). Current research from psychologist Armal (2014) suggests society praises people who possess extreme talent, and many individuals believe people who possess such talent, or ability, is the main aspect needed for success. This overemphasis on success leaves people afraid of challenges, more susceptible to failure, and unwilling to fix their weaknesses.

Growth mindset[edit | edit source]

A growth mindset is when an individuals abilities are developed through learning from failure, hard work, and dedication (Krakovsky, 2008). It is about viewing failure as feedback, and not as criticism of a person's ability, value, or characteristics (Cecere, Mancinelli, S & Mazzanti, 2014). A person with a growth mindset is eager to learn to increase performance, and enjoys examining, discovering, and learning about themselves (Cecere, Mancinelli, S & Mazzanti, 2014). Criticisms and setbacks are also not affected by this person too much{{rewrite{{.

How to get a growth mindset?[edit | edit source]

It is evident that a growth mindset is the more significant mindset as it assists to broaden our knowledge, deal with failure, learn, and embrace challenges. Tay and Diener (2011) outlined these elements to change a fixed mindset to a growth mindset:

  1. Self talk - the way people encourage themselves has a big impact on achieving goals. If a person tells themselves they are able to accomplish a task, they will be able to.
  2. Accept challenges - instead of not completing a difficult challenge, a fixed mindset individual should learn to embrace the challenge.
  3. Effort - a person is unlikely to accomplish goals if they do not put effort in.
  4. Improvement - improving on skills and abilities is necessary for the learning process, and will allow an individual to become better at what they want to achieve.
  5. Openness - one can never be sure if trying something will end in success or failure. Before making a statement such as, "it wont work?", the person should ask themselves , "why won't it work?". Being open to new experiences and trying new things is a vital aspect to learn new ideas.
  6. Celebrate - even celebrate the small successes, to make the progress to achieving a goal worthwhile.
  7. Learn from failure - take feedback of what worked, and what did not work that caused the failure. Failure does not mean you cannot try again, a new approach, or practising may assist.

Either growth or fixed?[edit | edit source]

Many studies suggest no one has a fixed or growth mindset (Dweck, 2012). Most people are between the two mindsets, however in some rare cases individuals may have one mindset (Gillespie, R., & Bennett, J, 2013). The mindset does also not constantly remain the same. People show different mindsets, in various circumstances, depending on one's skills, values and beliefs. However, to alter a fixed mindset to a growth mindset, awareness that a person holds a fixed mindset is necessary (Dweck, 2012).

Carol Dweck[edit | edit source]

Dweck (2012) was the originator of the mindset idea and found many associations with mindsets including education, the workplace, politics, culture, and relationships.

Education[edit | edit source]

Dweck's studies examined how mindsets are created at an early age, especially through praising achievements at school. Dweck stresses that presence is more significant then praise in teaching children to create a good relationship with achievement. In a study conducted by Dweck (2012) and colleagues, pre-school children were offered a choice of redoing an easy jigsaw puzzle, or completing a harder one. Children with a fixed mindset chose the easier puzzle that affirmed to their fixed ability. It gave the idea to the researchers that intelligent children do not make mistakes. Children with the growth mindset thought why would someone want to redo the same puzzle again and not challenge themselves to learn something new. In basic terms, the growth mindset children wanted to grow their abilities to become smarter, whereas the fixed mindset children wanted to redo the same puzzle, as they knew they would succeed in order to feel intelligent.

To gain more information on this aspect, Dweck (2012) conducted another study to examine how the brain behaves when individuals answer difficult questions, and receive feedback on their answers. Dweck found that those with a growth mindset listened greatly to the feedback, as this assisted them in increasing their current knowledge and abilities, even if they got the question wrong. However, those with a fixed mindset were not attentive to the feedback given if they had gotten a question wrong, and were only present on listening to feedback on their current skills. They did not want to grow, or improve their abilities.

In another study, Dweck (2012) examined how students reacted to praise on achievements. Dweck and her assistants gave the students difficult problems from a nonverbal intelligence quotient test, then praised the students who did well on the exams. However, Dweck and her colleagues offered two types of praise. Some participants were told, "Wow, you got (student score) right. That is a very outstanding mark. You must have worked very hard. This group was praised for their effort. Others were told, 'Wow, you got (student score) right. You must be great at this". This group were praised for their skills. After this, Dweck and her colleagues gave the participants another exam with more difficult questions. As expected, the participants did not do so well. This time the fixed mindset students did not think they were intelligent, or gifted when they received the failed mark. However, the growth mindset children learnt from this that they simply had to work harder next time to succeed, and did not take the mark as not good abilities, or failure.

The most significant finding from this study was that it impacted the student's enjoyment (Dweck, 2012). For the fixed mindset, the students enjoyed the first set of questions, however as the questions became more difficult, the fixed mindset students suddenly found the exam less appealing. In contrast, the growth mindset participants found the harder questions more enjoyable. The test also found an increased improvement on the growth mindset performance as the questions got more difficult, whereas the fixed mindset performance decreased.

After the tests were taken from the students, they were told to write their experience of the test to one of their peers, including their scores to each question. It was found that forty percent of the fixed mindset children lied about their scores, to make them look more smarter to their peers. This depicts the difference between fixed and growth mindsets (Parkin & Anotonia, 2014).

Relationships[edit | edit source]

Dweck (2012) found the same [what?] correlation with personal relationships. Those with a fixed mindset believed their spouse to give them attention constantly, and make them feel spoilt, and perfect. This mindset is where cultural myths are created about "true love". This also includes the myth that the perfect couple should always know what the other person is thinking, and to finish each other's sentences. However, those with a growth mindset wanted a spouse that would help them improve, teach them new things, and assist them in becoming a better person (Gonzalez-Torre, Adenso-Dıaz, & Ruiz-Torres, 2003).

The most significant relationship myth believed by fixed mindset individuals is the idea that if the relationship requires work and effort, the relationship is not right, and any differences between the two, indicates flaws of the other partner (Gonzalez-Torre, Adenso-Dıaz, & Ruiz-Torres, 2003). However, those with a growth mindset appreciate their spouse's flaws, and still feel their relationship is worthwhile (Dweck, 2012). Arguments are seen as problems of communication, and not personality error of the spouse. This is not only in personal relationships, but also in relationships with family, and friends (Dweck, 2012).

The workplace[edit | edit source]

Differences in mindsets may occur when recruiters hire staff. Employees that[grammar?] hold a fixed mindset invest less time into developing employees skills and ability, by hiring staff with with great potential, and talent (Farmer, Hall, Leung, Estell & Brooks, 2011).

Politics[edit | edit source]

Politicians who believe abilities are fixed at birth and cannot be changed may spend less on funding to improve these abilities, and public schools (Lan, Hamsa, Neel, & Shiyma, 2014). However, these politicians may fund programs for gifted children when these programs consist of intelligent tests, as the politicians believe the children are already successful and will not fail (Dweck, 2012)

Culture[edit | edit source]

Differences may exist between cultures, for example westernised cultures may focus on success of fixed abilities, given the history of the use of IQ tests, whereas Asian countries, such as China and India, emphasise on learning, effort, and practise (Dweck, 2012).

Do you have a growth mindset?[edit | edit source]

To find out if you have a growth mindset, complete the questions below, then press submit.

1 You can't really change how intelligent you are


2 It doesn't matter who the person is, you can change your intelligence level regardless


3 An important reason why I study, is so I can learn new things about my unit


4 Trying new things is stressful for me, and I avoid it.


5 I like to listen to feedback teachers give me about my assignments, and exams


Motivation and mindsets[edit | edit source]

Mindsets can either weaken motivation, or increase motivation (Dweck, 2012). The fixed mindset weakens motivation of an individual as they think they do not have the required abilities to accomplish a goal, or task, or they are not good enough for the task. For example, saying things like, "I'm not creative, I'm a procrastinator, it's hard for me to lose weight, I have no talent, I am shy, I am not good at writing essay, etc.", decreases motivation to practice such abilities and skill, and therefore the person may give up, and move to something more achievable (Dweck, 2012).

In contrast, a growth mindset increases motivation. This is because those with a fixed mindset believe a person can strengthen and grow the skills over one's lifetime (Cecere, Mancinelli, S & Mazzanti, 2014). Forty years of scientific research suggests that if a person wants to strengthen their motivation, achieve goals and tasks, and live a more fulfilling life, the person should adopt a growth mindset approach (Dweck, 2012).

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

This chapter has provided an overview on what motivates people to choose a fixed, or growth mindset, by providing a brief overview of the definition of both mindsets, the causes of the type of mindsets, why a growth mindset is more greater then a fixed mindset, and how outside sources can influence a mindset.

Some individuals choose a growth mindset, as they want to learn, and broaden their knowledge, however those with a fixed mindset believe their abilities are innate, and are not motivated to learn from failure (Cecere, Mancinelli, S & Mazzanti, 2014). Even though Dweck's studies emphasise why people are motivated to choose either a growth, or a fixed mindset in certain situations, more research needs to be conducted on other environmental factors that could play a role to motivate an individual's mindset.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Armal, T. (2014). Dr. Dweck's studies discovery of fixed and growth mindsets have shaped our understanding of fixed and growth mindsets. Mindset Works, Brooklyn.

Dweck, C. (2012). Mindsets and Human Nature: Promoting change to mindsets. American Psychologist, American Psychological Association, 8, 614-622. doi:10.1037/a0029783

Dweck, C. (2012). Mindset: How You Can Fulfil Your Potential. Brown Brook Group, Chicago.

Farmer, T. W., Hall, C. M., Leung, M. C., Estell, D., B. & Brooks, D. (2011).

Govindarajan, V., & Gupta, A. (2009). Cultivating a global mindset. Academy of Management, 10, 17-25.

Cecere, G., Mancinelli, S., Mazzanti, M. (2014). Cultural diversity and mindsetsː how people are taught to have a growth mindset or fixed minset at an early age. Sociological Science, 107, pp. 163-176. doi: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2014.07.007

Dai, Y.C., Gordon, M.P.R., Ye, J.Y., Xu, D.Y., Lin, Z.Y., Robinson, N.K.L., Woodard, R., Harder, M.K. (2015). Why mindsets are significant in early learning students, Psychology Today, 102, pp. 9-19. doi: 10.1016/j.resconrec.2015.06.004

De Young, R. (1986). Encouraging growth mindsets and decreasing fixed mindsets. Journal of Human Resources, 15(4), 281-292.

Gillespie, R., & Bennett, J. (2013). How can mindsets play an influence in a person's life?. Journal of Stanford University, 56(3), 362-377. doi:10.1080/09640568.2012.681033

Gonzalez-Torre, P. L., Adenso-Dıaz, B., & Ruiz-Torres, A. (2003). Factors to increase mindsets. Journal of Business Management, 69(2), 129-138. doi: 10.1016/S0301 -4797(03)00109-9

Lan, S., Hamsa, R., Neel, T., & Shiyma, L. (2014). How Companies Can Profit From A "Growth Mindset". Harvard Business Review. New Yorkː Norton.

Krakovsky, M. (2008). The Effort Effect. Stanford University, 22, 781-802.

Mercer, S., & Ryan, S. (2009). A mindset for EFL: learners' beliefs about the role of natural talent. Oxford University Press, 45, 109-180. doi: 10.1093/elt/ccp083.x

Parkin T., & Anotonia, B. (2014). Mindset - the psychology of success. Curtin Life, Curtin University, 16, 29-48.

Steverink, N., & Lindenberg, S. (2006). Which mindset is more significant? Does it really matter what type of mindset we have? Psychology and Motivation, 21(2), 281-290. doi:10.1037/0882-7974.21.2.281

Tay, L., & Diener, E. (2011). Mindsets. Journal of Personality and Motivation Psychology, 101(2), 354-365. doi:10.1037/a0023779

Taylor, S. (2006). What happens to our lives with the type of mindset we choose to hold?. Harvad University Press, 15(6), 273-277. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8721.2006.00451.x

External links[edit | edit source]