Carol Dweck, an American psychologist, a professor of the Stanford University, is the author of the classic works about the motivation and “the growth mindset.” Her works are influential among teachers and among business leaders as well. Her “the growth mindset” is an idea that we are able to develop our ability of our brain to learn and solve problems.
Carol Dweck’s brainology bridges the developmental psychology, social psychology, and personality psychology, and examines the self-conceptions (or mindsets) of people who guide them in their behavior. Her research looks at the origins of these mindsets, their role in the motivation and self-regulation, and their impact on achievement and interpersonal processes. In her Mindset book (2007), Carol Dweck claimed that our intelligence, talent, and education do not necessarily lead a person to the success. To her opinion, the main criterion is the way of thinking and how a person copes with life’s problems and challenges. From this book, we can find out how a fixed mindset can help or harm us, while we achieve our goals, and how it increases our self-motivation and effectiveness. In her works, she describes two approaches to the task, which we still do not have the strength to cope. Are we not smart enough to solve it or just have not decided yet?
For many years Carol Dweck studied the features of two types of people’s attitude about themselves and their actions. On the example of many people – students, colleagues, friends, and also outstanding sportsmen, businessmen, and people of art – the author proves the relevance and productivity of the correct progressive approach to the solution of any problem. In the new psychology of success, the mindset is considered in the way how we can learn to fulfill our potential. The main idea is that a flexible way of thinking (the so-called growth mindset), focused on the process of activity and allowing to develop our skills, has the advantage over a fixed and static ability to achieve the best results.
C. Dweck was more attracted not by the advantages and disadvantages of different approaches in teaching, but by the nature of the relationship between parents, teachers, coaches, and children. In the process of education, training, and counseling it is very important to be able to step aside in time and see what the person will do, which path he or she will choose. Tutors should not interfere in everything, but they should act with curiosity, respect, and acceptance of others’ decisions.
The fixed perception is an idea of the static nature of the intellect. This causes a person to avoid complex tasks, to give up at the slightest obstacles and to put in doubt own strengths. With such a mood, we simply neglect any constructive criticism in our address and perceive the success of other people of our environment with difficulties. As a result, we can not fully open our potential and take the world with the color of fatalism. The progressive thinking is based on the development of our intellectual abilities, which encourages a person to active learning. It motivates us to perform tasks despite any obstacles and shows that all our efforts are necessary to achieve mastery. This worldview teaches us to benefit from the criticism and to seek an inspiration in the successes of others. In the end, all this enables us to achieve our goals, surpass difficulties and strengthen our willpower.
According to C. Dweck, the key factor in the effectiveness of “developing thinking” is that the thirst for self-affirmation is replaced by a passion for learning. The basic human qualities, like intellect, creativity or love can be improved through our efforts and a conscious practice. People with this perception do not worry about their failures because, in fact, they consider such situations instructive. This idea, of course, is not new and has already been used in many studies of the self-motivation. But Dweck’s works differ from them, because they are based on the study of progressive thinking, determines the characteristics of these types of thinking and explains how they can be reprogrammed. Carol and her team found out that people with fixed thinking perceive any risks and efforts as a potential confirmation of their incompetence in anything. But the relationship between thinking and efforts is a two-way street.
C. Dweck explains in her brainology articles that these types of thinking are formed at a very early age. In one experiment, Dweck and her colleagues studied the four-year-old children, when they had to choose whether to remake a light puzzle or to take on a more complex puzzle. And even these children corresponded to the features of these two types of thinking. The guys with a fixed perception used to perform a simpler task and confirmed their skills and the owners of the developing thinking tried to understand how to perform the same action again if they failed. In other words, the fixedly minded children wanted to achieve success in order to look smart, and kids with an evolving mood tried to test themselves and improve their mental abilities.
C. Dweck developed her research at the Columbia University. She decided to find out what happens to the brain activities of the participants during the experiment, while they had to answer to complex questions and get grades for their efforts. Dweck managed to find out that people with fixed thinking were interested in responses matching only their current skills, and they filtered out the information useful for the further development. They were not even interested in the correct answers to questions because after making a mistake, they instantly showed their offense to the category of failures and did not want to return to it. Participants with developing thinking, on the contrary, were very interested in the information that contributed to their self-development, regardless of whether they made a mistake or not. In other words, their priority was training.
These data are especially useful for the educational sphere because they demonstrate the value of the intelligence in our culture. In another study, in which hundreds of students took part, Dweck and her colleagues offered each student to solve several difficult tasks from the non-verbal IQ test, and then praised participants for their efforts. Two kinds of verbal praises were used. Thus, one of the students was praised for the skill, and someone else – for the efforts. And the results were even more unexpected. The teenagers, who were praised for their skills, began to doubt their mental abilities. C. Dweck concluded that if a success was a way of the self-affirmation for them, then its absence made them feel inferior. Students who got a praise for their efforts took the new task as another reason for the development and did not hesitate to show themselves from the worst side. Probably the most important factor here was the influence of the types of thinking on the level of pleasure obtained. At the first level, everyone was happy with easy questions, but as the tasks became more complicated, students who were praised for their skills forgot about the fun and new tasks brought them a genuine pleasure of the self-development. By the way, students with progressive thinking were also much more effective at coping with all given tasks, while adolescents with fixed perceptions showed worse results. The most alarming fact was found after IQ tests when students were asked to describe the peers’ experience and tell about their successes. To the great regret for Dweck, the most terrible side effect of fixed thinking was the tendency to deceive. 40% of the guys who were praised for their skills deliberately overstated their results in order to seem more successful. This is the main difference between the two types of thinking. People with a developing view of life, personal success is achieved only by the hard work on themselves, and representatives of a fixed view need only confirm their superiority. The latter perceive the failure as a verdict for themselves or a sign of their inferiority. But the first group can see only the motivating information, a kind of signal for their awakening.
The most serious application of these studies is not in the business or in the educational sector, but in the love. Dweck discovered that people displayed the duality of their preferences even in personal relationships: in the case of fixed thinking, the ideal partner for them is a person who extolled their talents in every possible way, but thinking of growth needs a partner who would contribute to the development of the second half. As it turned out, fixed perception underlies all our negative ideas about the true love. But the most depressing misconception about the relationship is the thought that any discrepancy of opinions is perceived as a flaw on the part of the partner. Dweck suggests that people with growth thinking accept their partners with all their shortcomings, without any claims and consider such relations quite normal. For them, conflicts are just problems in communication, which do not concern the personality of the partner or his or her character. This trend is valid not only for a romantic or friendly connection but also for relations between parents.
Summarizing, we can say that the world view is a process that allows us analyzing the events that take place. In fixed thinking, this process is triggered by an internal monolog of judgments and estimates, and all information is used only as arguments in favor of one or another statement. In the thinking of the growth, the internal monolog, on the contrary, does not participate in the judgment, but only causes a thirst for learning and a constant search for the useful experience. Once we know that abilities can be developed that way, one of the main civil rights for children is the opportunity to live where such development is cultivated.