WATCH: The Mixed Power Of Praise

Today, I’d like to talk to you about a particular experiment done by Dr. Carol Dweck when she was Professor of Psychology at Stanford University. 



Dweck’s Experiment 

And it was all about ‘The Mixed Power of Praise’. She did an experiment with 400 children, where she split them into two groups and gave them a series of three tests. And just noticed what happened depending on the type of praise that they were given. 

So, there was a first medium level test, split them into two groups, and one group was told, “Oh, you did really well. You must be really Smart!”. And the other group she split said, “Oh, you did really well, you must have put in a lot of Effort and worked really hard!”. So, they had two groups. ‘Smart’ versus ‘Effort’. 

They were then given a choice, to do a second test. And, either choose a ‘Harder Test’ or an ‘Easier Test’. And, what happened was, the children that had been told that they were smart, took the ‘Easier Route’. And, she believes that was to do that, if they were smart that wasn’t something that they had any control over. They were either smart or not smart. So, hey better not risk anything and take the easier test. Where the children who were told, that they had been putting in a lot of effort, said “Well, you know put in effort, it’s a harder test, just put in more effort”. So, they gave the test and it was a particularly difficult test. And the reporting afterwards was that the children had been told they were smart and didn’t enjoy it, it got frustrated and gave up easily. And, the ones who had put in more effort, even though it was difficult, put in that effort and actually, enjoyed the process. Because they just thought like well this is just putting in more effort. 

And then they did another third test in the experiment. Which was about the same level as the first one and then some interesting results showed up. The children who had a setback and who were told that they were smart then had a bit of a crisis because they didn’t feel smart anymore. And that actually had them, on average, do 20 % less well than in the first test. Where the children who’d been told that they’d been putting in a lot of effort in that earlier test actually did 30% better than in their original test. That’s a 50% difference depending on the mindset that was developed in those children. 

So, I want you to think about this in your own life. Where do you have a ‘Fixed Mindset’, where things are deterministic you either have it or you don’t. Or whether you think “Hey, this is about putting in effort and developing and growing and trying and learning how to do stuff”. Because, she then coined this phrase, “The people who are fixed in their mindset about whether I’m either smart or not is a fixed mindset. And people who put in effort and are always willing to learn have a ‘Growth Mindset’. That’s where that term comes from. 


So, when it comes to Growth Mindset, Stay Curious! 


With best regards,

David Klaasen 

Need help motivating your leaders? Get in contact with Talent4Performance.

Schedule a FREE 30-minute CONSULTATION with David Klaasen

Talent4Performance help business leaders clarify complexity. We inspire people and drive continuous performance improvement, so they can convert thinking into action and results. 

©David Klaasen – 2014