The concept of fostering a growth mindset has attracted a great deal of attention since it was conceived by Carol Dweck more than 30 years ago. Since then, Dweck has gone on to evangelize the growth mindset through her book, TED talk and the company she founded, Mindset Works, which describe the adoption of a growth mindset as not only transformative, but critical for success in today’s performance-oriented world. Mindset can purportedly explain “our relationship with success and failure in both professional and personal contexts, and ultimately our capacity for happiness.” This is no minor assertion.
But in spite of the growth mindset’s popular acclaim, researchers are beginning to wonder whether the enthusiasm around it is warranted. Recent research demonstrates an impact of mindset on achievement outcomes, but with small effects that are often limited to a subset of the general population.
Carol Dweck describes mindset as the set of beliefs around one’s abilities, such as intelligence, and assigns people to one of two mindset camps: the fixed mindset and the growth mindset. While a person with a fixed mindset is said to believe that attributes are fixed and resist change through effort, someone with a growth mindset believes that these attributes are malleable, so they can be changed through effort and determination.
The growth mindset revolution began in educational systems, with schools feverishly adopting mindset training programs, and in recent years has extended to adult work environments where organizations are looking to inspire and motivate their workforces. The appeal of the growth mindset is unsurprisingly seductive: All you have to do is get your employees to think in terms of learning and growth, and a world of possibilities is unlocked. Say goodbye to complacency, and hello to endless productivity.
But as growth mindset trainings begin to spring up everywhere, it’s worth asking what the evidence says when it comes to the effect of mindset on achievement. Recent studies shed some light on the extent to which mindset matters, and it appears that the impact of a growth mindset may be overstated.
In a recent meta-analysis, where researchers compiled published mindset studies to analyze together, they found very low correlations between growth mindset and academic…