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Mindsets and Motivation. Claudia Mueller, PhD, MD Division of Pediatric Surgery. Framework. Based on work by psychologist Carol Dweck, PhD Dweck et al have identified a set of “implicit theories” or “mindsets” that individuals use to analyze and interpret the world

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mindsets and motivation

Mindsets and Motivation

Claudia Mueller, PhD, MD

Division of Pediatric Surgery

  • Based on work by psychologist Carol Dweck, PhD
  • Dweck et al have identified a set of “implicit theories” or “mindsets” that individuals use to analyze and interpret the world
  • These theories are based on two different assumptions that people make about the malleability of personal attributes
implicit theories
Implicit theories
  • “Entity” theory
    • The belief that a personal attribute is fixed and nonmalleable
  • “Incremental” theory
    • The belief that an attribute is a malleable quality that is subject to change and development
  • Beliefs can be applied in various domains: intelligence, morality, athletics
implicit theories 2
Implicit theories 2
  • Entity/incremental category determined by responses to statements
  • Implicit theories
    • Intelligence
      • You can learn new things, but you can’t really change your basic intelligence.
    • Morality
      • A person’s moral character is something very basic about them and it can’t be changed very much.
mindset statements
Mindset statements
  • Your intelligence is something very basic about you that you can’t change very much.
  • You can learn new things, but you can’t really change how intelligent you are.
  • No matter how much intelligence you have, you can always change it quite a bit.
  • You can always substantially change how intelligent you are.
implicit theories 3
Implicit theories 3
  • Entity vs. Incremental theories influence
    • Judgments
      • Entity see failures as indicative of stable, low ability
    • Goals
      • Performance (look good, avoid failure) vs. mastery(learn material, may have to fail to do so)
    • Response to setbacks
      • Entity give up in face of challenge
  • Theories create “mindsets” which influence behavior
  • Independent of actual intelligence, morality, athletic ability
intelligence theory
Intelligence theory
  • Entity view of intelligence as fixed stable trait
    • Intelligence is reflected by individual outcomes
    • Performance goals: challenge is threatening
    • Failure is devastating (I’m dumb)
  • Incremental view of intelligence as able to be developed
    • Individual outcomes not representative of whole
    • Learning goals: challenge is informative
    • Failure is motivating (I need to work harder)
theory development
Theory development
  • Likely related to feedback received throughout life
    • Parents, teachers, peers
  • Some studies have looked at feedback after failure
  • My work has focused on feedback after success
feedback studies
Feedback studies
  • Does feedback change how children respond to challenge?
  • Can different types of praise lead children to develop different goals and theories (mindsets)?
  • Conventional wisdom
    • Praise in any form is good
    • Praise after success
      • builds self esteem
      • protects against disappointment after failure
type of praise
Type of praise
  • Praise for:
    • Fixed ability = “smartness”
    • Malleable effort = “hard work”
  • Would children respond differently based on the type of praise given?
    • Conventional wisdom: no
    • Hypothesis: yes
  • Series of 6 studies with fifth-graders assessed for their work on geometric puzzles (Mueller & Dweck)
  • >500 participants
    • public and private schools
    • Midwest, Northeast
  • Dweck lab, Psychology Dept, Columbia University
experimental design
Experimental Design

Puzzle 1




Puzzle 2



Puzzle Enjoyment

Task Persistence

Failure Attributions

Puzzle 3


  • Raven’s Progressive Matrices
  • John C. Raven, Oxford Psychologists Press
  • Wow, you did very well on these problems. You got – right. That’s a really high score.
  • Ability
    • You must be smart at these problems.
  • Effort
    • You must have worked hard at these problems.
  • Children told they scored “a lot worse” on second set of puzzles
  • Post-failure assessments
    • How well they did
    • Enjoyment
    • Persistence
    • Attributions
      • I didn’t work hard enough
      • I’m not good enough at the problems
      • I’m not smart enough
      • I didn’t have enough time
psychological impact of praise
Psychological impact of praise
  • Children praised for effort
    • Attributed failure to lack of trying
    • Enjoyed puzzles more
    • More likely to persist
  • Children praised for ability
    • Attributed failure to lack of ability
    • Enjoyed the puzzles less
    • Gave up sooner
  • Content of praise matters
additional findings
Additional findings
  • Ability praise
    • Performance goals
    • Entity belief of intelligence
    • Sought information on performance not mastery
    • Misrepresented score to other kids
  • Effort praise: learning, incremental theory
  • Praise delivers message
    • Praise for ability after success
      • Poor performance = low ability
      • Avoid challenge
    • Praise for effort after success
      • Poor performance = work harder
      • Embrace challenge as opportunity for growth
  • Feedback leads to “mindset” that determines behavior
my research paradigm
My research paradigm
  • Propose psychological framework of children’s illness that uses their theories of health to predict adherence and outcomes
  • Develop scale to identify these health theories
  • Test scale in healthy children
  • Study theories and behaviors in chronically ill adolescents
  • Develop feedback messages to improve both adherence and outcomes in pediatric populations
response to disease
Response to disease
  • Little is known about the psychological dimensions of children’s disease
  • Children respond very differently to stressful hospital settings
  • Some crumble and regress; others thrive and adapt
    • “Mindset” of illness
    • Independent of illness severity
  • “Mindset” can be created by theory which may determine adherence and, ultimately, response to disease
translation to clinical setting
Translation to clinical setting
  • Illness is a challenge
  • Hospitalized children behave similarly to children in schools
  • Do children perceive health as they do intelligence: fixed vs. malleable?
    • If fixed, less incentive to develop strategies for health promotion
    • If malleable, more likely to be active in their health care
  • Studies designed to examine how children think about health and how this affects their behaviors
scale development
Scale development
  • Potential statements tested with 500 healthy high school students
  • Goal to identify cohesive set of items to categorize beliefs
    • Entity theorists=health is fixed, unchangeable
    • Incremental theorists=health is malleable, subject to change
  • Key items
    • Your body has a certain amount of health, and you really can’t do much to change it.
    • Your health is something about you that you can’t change very much.
    • You can try to make yourself feel better, but you can’t really change your basic health.
study 1 test scale with healthy kids
Study 1: Test scale with healthy kids
  • 100 high school students
  • Exclude any with chronic medical conditions
  • Asked to respond to scenarios of kids with specific illnesses
    • Broken leg
    • Asthma
    • Appendicitis
results 1
Results 1
  • Definition of health
    • Entity attribute to genes
    • Incremental attribute to behavior
  • Assessment of health in others
    • Entity exaggerate illness severity
    • Entity exaggerate illness duration
  • Assessment of own health
    • Incremental theorists believe they are healthier
    • Entity have higher BMI
  • Minimal overlap with previous scale of health causation (Locus of control)
study 2
Study 2
  • 250 high school students
  • Asked to assess health of others (replicate first study)
  • Also asked to self-report safety behaviors
    • Hypothesis: Entity theorists might be less mindful of safety
  • Results confirmed Study 1
  • No significant difference in safety precautions
current study assessment of beliefs in patients
Current study: Assessment of beliefs in patients
  • Chronically ill adolescents: Type 1 Diabetes
  • Age 12-18 yrs
  • Implicit theories of health
  • Dependent measures
    • Self-report of adherence attitudes
    • Health outcomes
      • Meter results
      • Blood sugar levels
current study 2
Current study 2
  • Participants approached at regularly-scheduled clinic visit
    • Consent from parents
    • Assent from patients
  • Participation rate 95%
  • Questionnaire administered in waiting area
    • Implicit theory of health scale
    • Adherence attitudes
results adherence attitudes
Results-adherence attitudes
  • Entity theorists vs incremental theorists
    • Less likely to believe that adherence matters (p<.05)
      • Taking the right amount of medication on schedule will help me control my illness.
      • If I do exactly what my doctor tells me, I can control my illness.
results actual health
Results-actual health
  • Meter results (previous 3 weeks)
  • Entity vs. incremental
    • Highest glucose (p<.05)
    • Mean glucose (p<.05)
    • Percent above target (p<.02)
    • Hgb A1c not significant
overall results
Overall results
  • By measuring adolescents’ implicit theories of health, we were able to predict
    • Reactions to illness in others
    • Attitudes toward adherence
    • Actual health outcomes in diabetic patients
    • Advantages of implicit theory scale (Mueller, Williams, Dweck)
    • Simple
    • Easy to administer
    • Long history of use in various contexts
future investigations
Future investigations
  • Apply theory framework to other disease populations
    • Post-transplant, Cystic fibrosis, IBD
    • Post-op recovery cardiac surgery
  • Design experimental manipulations in which theories are changed (eg, fixed to malleable) to measure effect on outcomes
  • Deliver feedback messages targeted at theory change
    • Via web-based designs, technologies
other ongoing research projects
Other ongoing research projects
  • Implicit theories of body weight (Burnette)
    • Plan to implement interventions (on-line reading activities that present body weight as malleable)
    • Measure motivation as well as weight loss over test period
  • Theories of trauma
    • Teenagers hospitalized for trauma asked about cause of injury
    • Use attributions to develop prevention strategies
  • Children’s perceptions of their surgical scars
  • Perceptions can change behaviors
  • In academic setting, children’s beliefs about intelligence influence their performance
  • In healthcare setting, children’s beliefs about health and illness may affect their responses to disease
  • My work is an attempt to create a psychological model that explains children’s health behaviors
  • Encouraging results using implicit theory framework to predict adherence and outcomes in medical setting
thank you
Thank you
  • Carol Dweck, PhD
  • Robert Wright, MA
  • Ryan Williams, MD
  • Bruce Buckingham, MD
  • Marily Oppezzo, MA
  • David Yeager, PhD
  • Jeni Burnette, PhD
  • Lindsey Eliopulos, MA
  • MetteHoybye, PhD
  • Berg et al. (1993). Medication compliance: A health care problem. Annals of Pharmacotherapy, 27, 2-21.
  • Burnette, J. (2009). Implicit theories of body weight: Fostering beliefs for healthy behavior. NIH grant proposal.
  • Cimpian,A, Arce, HC, Markman, EM & Dweck, CS. (2007). Subtle linguistic cues affect children’s motivation. Psychological Science, 18, 314-316.
  • Diener, CI & Dweck, CS. (1978). An analysis of learned helplessness: Continuous changes in performance, strategy and achievement cognitions following failure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 36, 451-462.
  • Dweck, CS, Chiu, CY & Hong, YY. (1995). Implicit theories and their role in judgments and reactions: A world from two perspectives. Psychological Inquiry, 6, 267-285.
  • Festa et al. (1992). Therapeutic adherence to oral medication regimens by adolescents with cancer. J of Pediatrics, 120, 807-811.
  • Heyman, GD, Dweck, CS & Cain, K. (1992). Young children’s vulnerability to self-blame and helplessness. Child Development, 63, 401-415.
  • Mueller, CM & Dweck, CS. (1998). Intelligence praise can undermine motivation and performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 33-52.
  • Shagena, MM, Sandler, HK & Perrin, EC. (1988). Concepts of illness and perception of control in healthy children and in children with chronic illness. Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, 9, 252-256.
  • Tebbi et al. (1986). Compliance of pediatric and adolescent cancer patients. Cancer, 58, 1179-1184.
  • Zora et al. (1989). Assessment of compliance in children using inhaled beta adrenergic agonists. Annals of Allergy, 62, 406-409.