Monday, January 31, 2011

Carol Dweck's Mindsets

Carol Dweck's book Mindset is a must read for those who wish to see how the view you adopt for your characteristics such as personality and intelligence, can have profound effects on your success.

Essentially, the premise behind Dweck's book is that people with a growth mindset see their intelligence, personality and other traits as pliable and flexible - they can grow and develop through effort. Those who suffer from a fixed mindset, see their characteristics as set in stone - you are born with only so much, so you have to spend most of your life touting or hiding your abilities (or lack of). While the fixed mindset is busy proving how good they are the growth mindset is learning to improve.

Click on the picture below to view a visual of the two mindsets. Which are you?
Carol Dweck's Mindsets

Christopher Reeve and Growth Mindset


  1. love book reports Joe, I think reading books is something that can get lost for us busy bloggers, it never has for you. Your posts are always thought provoking and backed by something that you have learned.

  2. Hi Joe,

    Really glad you brought this up because I’ve been a little puzzled by some of the reading I have been doing of Dweck’s work. I’m especially interested in what happens when we begin to explore notions and attitudes towards Talent.

    The comparisons Dweck makes are of individuals who show “equal ability”. But how did the fixed mindset individuals arrive at the same level as the growth mindset ones in the first place?

    “Most interesting, our research with children has demonstrated that those who avoid challenge and show impairment in the face of difficulty are initially equal in ability to those who seek challenge and show persistence. Indeed some of the brightest, most skilled individuals exhibit the maladaptive pattern. Thus it cannot be said that it is simply those with weak skills or histories of failure who (appropriately) avoid difficult tasks or whose skills prove fragile in the face of difficulty.”

    “Most interesting” yes but there is no explanation of how these individuals managed to become so bright and skilled despite their “maladaptive pattern” which strikes me as a glaring unanswered question. Furthermore, how nuanced is this binary distinction and do we really believe that it’s roughly but conveniently a 50/50 split? And finally how much corroboration is there of Dweck’s findings?
    In a 2008 study into perceptions of performance (admittedly a different context) carried out by Kim-Sau Chung and Peter Eso they identify 3 groups: those who wish to learn about their performance and are confident, those that wish to learn about their performance but lack confidence and those that don’t wish to learn about their performance (because they know it’s poor). Interestingly in this study it was found that the confident individuals would choose to avoid actions which demonstrated their productivity because this would signal a lack of confidence.

    “The agent who is confident about his productivity can provide stronger evidence by choosing a more informative signal, but the same action also signals a lack of self-confidence because foregoing learning is especially costly for those with self-doubt.”

    Though I'd still advocate encouraging students to think of ability as flexible, perhaps Dweck’s black and white picture doesn't quite give us the full spectrum after all.

  3. Hi Joe. Thanks for the post. I think the growth mindset is ultimately what we need to develop in our students. I talk a lot about building student confidence - that once students see themselves as learners anything is possible. I think the growth mindset is essentially the same thing. When a student is convinced they can grow - that they are a confident learner - then anything is possible. As adults, the same midset is necessary for us to continue both our personal and profesisonal journey. Thanks again!