If you’ve recently visited a school, you’ve most likely heard teachers discuss the significance of a ‘development mentality.’ Carol Dweck, a psychologist who pioneered research into this fundamental topic, explains what it’s all about and recommends books that shed light on it that aren’t her own.
How Children Fail
by John Holt
Let’s start with a book that has sold over a million copies since its initial release in 1963. Please explain How Children Fail to us. This was a game-changing book. John Holt discusses why students shut off their thoughts, and how even children from rich families and schools can become intellectually numb. Why do they keep failing? Because they’re terrified, he says. They don’t want to let folks down. They’re terrified of making a mistake. Then he goes on to ask, “Why does this happen?” Because they are judged by others and schools. The dread of failing, disappointing, and being incorrect is at the heart of the “fixed mindset,” which is why I adore this book. This book was one of the first books I read in graduate school, and it was essential in determining my career path. It piqued my interest in the psychology of vulnerability and its polar opposite, resilience.
Many years later, I reread this book and realized that Holt had redefined intelligence. For him, intelligence was not defined by the kinds of qualities we assess or by academic performance. For him, intelligence was a collection of attitudes, a method of tackling problems. Intelligent people are those who take on obstacles head on, who examine their mistakes and learn from them. He was equating intelligence with the ability to learn new things.
Your first study as a psychologist focused on failure. Why? Failure is crucial to comprehend since achievement entails numerous failures. You won’t be able to reach your full potential if you don’t know how to welcome failure, grapple with it, and eventually conquer it. Because I admit I had a fixed perspective early on, I grew enamored with failing. I’ve often wondered why some people seem to be able to roll with the punches more readily and not regard setbacks as a reflection of their ability. I observed these youngsters when I initially started my research; we would offer them challenges they couldn’t answer, and they would remark things like “I enjoy a challenge” or “Mistakes are our friends.” I knew they possessed a level of wisdom that I had yet to attain. I wanted to figure out how I could bottle and spread their mindset to a larger audience.
The Mismeasure of Man
by Stephen Jay Gould
The Mismeasure of Man by Stephen J Gould is up next. Please tell us about it, including the fallacies it exposes and how it relates to success psychology. This remarkable book was published just as I was beginning to construct my mentality ideas, and it put my work into a larger social framework. Gould explains how the need to measure, name, and categorize people overtook Western culture, adopting various forms such as craniometry and IQ testing. It discusses the origins of this obsession with measuring fixed features, as well as the numerous repercussions of the hierarchies that resulted. This is something I witnessed firsthand. I grew up during the height of the IQ frenzy. My sixth-grade teacher positioned us in IQ order around the room and assigned all privileges based on IQ. This book let me realize the impact it had on us, and I realized that my work could contribute to the end of that age.
Gould also introduced me to Alfred Binet, the inventor of the IQ test, who became a hero of mine. So, what makes him my hero? He created the test as part of a genuine social objective. Officials in the Paris public schools urged him to devise a method for identifying children who were not benefiting from the existing curriculum and designing new courses of study to help these students get back on track. He didn’t make the test to classify and limit kids. Unfortunately, Americans believed that this test could be used to assess fixed IQ. Binet was furious. He didn’t believe his exam accurately measured intelligence, much less fixed intelligence. But he couldn’t stop the Americans, and we’re still dealing with the fallout from his test’s misapplication.
Binet committed his life to developing programs to improve children’s intelligence, and when he saw the results, he declared, “We have improved what comprises the pupil’s intelligence, the capacity to acquire and integrate teaching.” Binet, in other words, had a genuine growth mindset. You can image how upsetting it was for him to see individuals using a tool he created to promote a development mentality to promote a fixed attitude. Rather than measuring and labeling individuals, Gould and I agree that as a community, we must refocus on understanding how people really function and how we can help them perform better. The book by Gould received a lot of flak. Some claimed he used phantoms to attack dead hypotheses. Do you think those criticisms were reasonable?
I wish Gould had been arguing against hypotheses that were no longer valid. Fixed mindset hypotheses are still very much alive. People no longer measure skulls, but they still use examinations to assess attributes they believe are inherent and immutable.
Developing Talent in Young People
by Benjamin Bloom
Your next choice is Developing Young People’s Talent.
This book details an in-depth investigation of 120 persons who excelled in a variety of professions, ranging from music and art to science and athletics. Bloom and his colleagues wanted to know how these folks were able to completely develop their abilities. Did they succeed as a result of training and encouragement or because of some rare, innate qualities? Or perhaps both? To say the least, his conclusions were unexpected. What he discovered was that remarkable accomplishment appeared to be the result of hard work and dedication, rather than genetic gift. In fact, he discovered that early signals of talent had no bearing on eventual achievement. Few of the high achievers evaluated were labeled prodigies as children. Even at the age of 12, few few showed indicators of becoming the ones to rise to the top.
As a result, he inquired, “What commonalities can you find in their backgrounds?” And he discovered that the home environment was a significant impact. Their family environments instilled a work ethic and emphasized the value of giving it your all in all you do. Nowadays, we believe we must tell our children that everything they accomplish is wonderful and that we must monitor their progress. The houses that produced the truly high achievers, on the other hand, emphasized work ethic and pride in doing one’s best. They weren’t constantly pushing the child to achieve greatness, but they did teach the child to set lofty goals and endure. Another important factor was a commitment of at least a decade to progressively sophisticated learning. Bloom defined stages of learning that get increasingly difficult and require increasing levels of commitment from the individual and those around him or her. Early on, it is the parents and mentors that assist the child in confronting difficult activities, but in the end, the individual must take responsibility for his or her own commitment. Bloom also looked at average academic performance and arrived to a surprising conclusion. After 40 years of extensive research on schools and learning, he believes that “whatever anyone in the world can learn, practically everyone can learn with suitable prior and current learning conditions.” He excludes persons with significant learning problems, although he does acknowledge that some people have exceptional ability. However, he concluded from his studies that, with the exception of a few percent at the top and bottom, everybody can learn anything. That is a bold and exciting concept. I’m not sure if it’s true, but I’m hoping it is.
What does this book say about how we should try to coach, parent, and manage our employees? This book, as well as later study by scholars such as Geoffrey Cohen, demonstrates the importance of setting high expectations and guiding people to achieve them. My research suggests that this should be done in the context of appreciating the learning process and incremental improvement, rather than simply pressuring youngsters to achieve a goal. How can we alter the meaning system surrounding parenting and coaching so that pushing is no longer considered pushy? Praising children lavishly has become nearly synonymous with excellent parenting and, in some situations, effective coaching. Parents assume that by telling their children they are wonderful, they are instilling confidence in them and setting them up for success. My research reveals that giving youngsters the wrong kind of praise – praise for intelligence – makes them vulnerable. I’ve done some work with professional sports coaches, and one of them recently told me that the most surprising thing he’s learned as a coach is how sensitive professional athletes are. They’re at risk since their abilities have been exaggerated. They believe that they should not make mistakes or have to strive.
A intriguing magazine story about our praising research was published a few years ago. Panicked parents formed support groups to help one another overcome the practice of bad praise and redefine good parenting as acknowledging, encouraging, and praising children for taking on difficult tasks, working hard, overcoming hurdles, and acquiring new skills. “Who’s had a fantastic struggle today?” I advise parents to sit around the dinner table and inquire. “Who put in a lot of effort and learned something new?” Over time, this results in the formation of a new value system. It is not a good value system to be clever and faultless. It is preferable to encourage children to take on challenges and work hard to attain their goals. Teach your children that when they struggle and step outside of their comfort zone to learn new things, their brains form new connections and they get smarter. Struggling makes you feel stupid in a fixed mindset, but visualizing your brain building all these new connections gives you a completely different feeling in a development mindset.
by Michael Lewis
The next book on your list is Moneyball by Michael Lewis. This nonfiction work was adapted into a film starring Brad Pitt. What made you decide on it? I can promise you that Brad Pitt has nothing to do with my decision. Moneyball was my choice since it is a fantastic book that affected my own. Moneyball came out immediately before I authored Attitude, demonstrating that the fixed mindset was still alive and thriving in sports. In sports, you’d think that the link between training and skill would be evident, but it appears that it isn’t. Many of the baseball scouts detailed in the book believed they could tell who had the potential to be a superstar by looking at a baseball player’s superficial physical traits. It’s a sport-specific form of craniometry. Billy Bean was picked by baseball scouts as the next megastar when he was a young man, and the story revolves around him. However, due to his entrenched thinking, he was a dreadful failure. He believed that things should just happen. He despised practice and was irritated by blunders. He had a rage tantrum every time he struck out, which even the top players do most of the time. The book chronicles Billy Bean’s transformation from a fixed attitude that doomed him as a baseball player to a growth mindset that elevated him to one of baseball’s finest general managers. So, if thinking can be changed, how can we change ourselves and others?
How do we shift from a fixed mindset filled with fears to a growth mindset filled with possibilities? Start listening to the voices in your head as one option. Each mindset has a distinct voice that expresses itself in different ways. With a fixed mindset, the voice warns, “Watch out, you might humiliate yourself, you might show yourself that you’re not as smart as you think you are.” As you approach something difficult, the voice warns, “Watch out, you might humiliate yourself, maybe you’ll show yourself that you’re not as smart as you think you are.” The growth mentality, on the other hand, responds: You have to give it a shot; you’ll never progress unless you try, and everyone, after all, starts off as a novice.
A fixed mindset voice says, “See, I told you.” when someone is struggling with a task and making mistakes. You’re embarrassing yourself. Take a look at these errors. Clearly, you’re not very good at it. You wouldn’t be struggling if you were. The growth mentality responds, “It’s called learning, and learning takes time and perseverance.” You’d better keep going if you want to raise your head high. When someone with a fixed perspective sees someone who is truly exceptional at something, a voice in their head says, “That’s what talent looks like, and you lack it.” You’ll never be like that. In contrast, studies demonstrate that role models do not inspire those with a fixed worldview; rather, they scare and demoralize them. But the voice of the growth mindset must respond: That’s what you could become. Learn how that individual achieved it so that you may do it as well.Another crucial aspect of the growth mindset is to comprehend the neuroscience behind it – how your brain changes as you learn and how you can truly modify your brain with your ideas and actions.
The Brain That Changes Itself
by Norman Doidge
That takes us to The Brain That Changes Itself, your most recent book. What does science say about mental capacity’s heredity and quantifiability?
Reading this book was interesting for me because, while my study demonstrates that a development mindset is beneficial, this book reveals that it also has a strong foundation in modern neuroscience. It demonstrates the incredible power of the brain to alter and even reorganize itself with practice and experience through engaging case studies and details of modern research. For nearly 400 years, science has held that the brain and its structure are fixed, and the brain has even been seen as a static organ in the recent past. Scientists used to believe that humans were born with a specific brain that stayed that way until it deteriorated with age – and that if the brain was wounded, it was too late. To put it another way, persons who had restrictions would always have them.
However, neuroplasticity has only just been found. Many brain circuitry, including reflexes, are not hardwired the way we thought they were in this book. It demonstrates how a brain that has been injured can be reorganized. It highlights research that suggests that brain cells can be replaced in some cases when they die. Others who suffered strokes decades ago and utilized neuroplastic training to recover functions, or people who rewired their brains through their thoughts to ease obsessions or recover from traumas, are just a few examples of people who had restrictions and trained their way out of them. Even more remarkable, new research suggests that thinking and learning can turn our genes on and off, so altering the brain further. We tell people in our interventions that the brain is like a muscle that can expand with exercise. This book proves that everything we teach is accurate on a literal level as well. The brain can literally change as a result of exercise.