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Overview of Dweck's research into mindsets

Dweck has spent the last 30 years carrying out research into peoples' beliefs about their ability. The wealth of research supporting her theory gives mindsets a strong foundation.

Mindset: How we view success and failure

There is no question that our society's ideas about success, praise, and confidence are intuitively appealing. They grow out of the reasonable conviction that if students believe in their abilities, they will thrive. How can that not be true? I am not suggesting that failure and criticism are more beneficial than success and praise. Nor am I arguing that a feeling of confidence isn't a good thing to have, but.....it is not at the heart of motivation or the key to achievement 

Carol Dweck, Self-Theories, 1999 

Carol Dweck is a professor of psychology at Stanford University and has been conducting research on motivation and personality for over twenty years. Her work has enormous practical implications for teachers and parents as well as those working in sports or business settings. Dweck's ideas often go under the name of 'self-theories' and the World Education Fellowship named her book of that name 'book of the year' in 2000. Despite this acclaim, Dweck's ideas have not received much attention in the UK. However, the Scottish educational psychologist Alan McLean has disseminated and built on her theories in his book The Motivated School.'

In my research, I have been amazed over and over again at how quickly students of all ages pick up on messages about themselves - at how sensitive they are to suggestions about their personal qualities or about the meaning of their actions and experiences. The kinds of praise (and criticism) students receive from their teachers and parents tell them how to think about what they do - and what they are.'

Carol Dweck

One reason why Dweck's work has not received the attention it deserves is that her scholarly style and heavy use of empirical research makes it unattractive for the lay reader. Fortunately this has now changed for in 2006 she published a book called Mindset: the new psychology of success. In this volume she popularises her ideas and tries to engage non-psychologists. She does this mainly by using terminology which is more meaningful to the lay reader. It is this version of Dweck's work which we mainly use here. 



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