Children who believe intelligence can change with effort may bounce back more quickly from mistakes, according to a study published in the journal Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience. The study found a “growth” orientation toward intelligence enabled children to pay closer attention to their mistakes.
How a ‘Growth Mindset’ Supports Kids’ Learning
Children with a growth orientation believe their level of intelligence can grow and change with effort. Those with a fixed orientation toward intelligence believe intelligence is largely unchangeable, even with effort.
Researchers assessed 123 school-age children with an average age of 7. The children took a computer test while event-related potential (ERP) tests measured brain activity. The test asked the children to help a zookeeper locate lost animals by pressing a key when an animal appeared. If a group of orangutans appeared, the children were supposed to avoid pressing the key.
Within a half second of an error, children’s brain activity increased, suggesting the brain focused on understanding the error. Children with a growth orientation toward learning had greater brain responses after an error. This suggests their brains paid closer attention to the error, allowing them to better understand the mistake. These children were also less likely to make the same mistake again, suggesting the increased brain activity improved performance.
The study points to previous research suggesting people with a fixed orientation toward intelligence avoid acknowledging mistakes.
Parents’ Role in Intelligence Beliefs
Other studies support the conclusion that beliefs about intelligence can affect performance. Another study found parents’ views about failure affect their children’s views about intelligence. Some parents see failure as debilitating, while others view it as an opportunity for growth. Parents who see failure as debilitating focused more on their children’s performance. This convinced children that intelligence was fixed.
Taken with the current study, this research suggests a parent’s views about failure may affect a child’s performance by swaying the child’s philosophy of intelligence.
- Haimovitz, K., & Dweck, C. S. (2016). What predicts children’s fixed and growth intelligence mind-sets? Not their parents’ views of intelligence but their parents’ views of failure. Psychological Science, 27(6), 859-869. doi:10.1177/0956797616639727
- Kids should pay more attention to mistakes, study suggests. (2017, January 30). Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/01/170130100240.htm
- Schroder, H. S., Fisher, M. E., Lin, Y., Lo, S. L., Danovitch, J. H., & Moser, J. S. (2017). Neural evidence for enhanced attention to mistakes among school-aged children with a growth mindset. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 24, 42-50. doi:10.1016/j.dcn.2017.01.004
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