Psychologist Carol Dweck is considered a pioneering figure in the study of human motivation. She is perhaps best known for her research on implicit theories of intelligence and how mindsets influence motivation and success.
In this article, learn more about her life, work, theories, and influence on psychology.
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Early Life and Education
Carol S. Dweck was born on October 17, 1946. She graduated from Barnard College in 1967 and completed her Ph.D. at Yale University in 1972.
Dweck held posts at Columbia, Harvard, and the University at Illinois prior to taking a position as the Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University where she continues to work today.
Dweck is best-known for her research on motivation, personality, and mindsets. She suggests that people who believe that intelligence is innate and unchangeable hold a “fixed” mindset while those who believe that their abilities hinge on training and effort hold a “growth” mindset.
Dweck believes that this tendency to view ability as fixed or malleable can have a profound impact on almost all areas of a person’s life, especially motivation to achieve. Such mindsets, she believes, can also be fostered through interactions during early childhood. Children who are praised for their efforts, as opposed to their innate abilities, are more likely to develop a growth mindset.
Her work also suggests that parents, teachers, and caregivers can help encourage a growth mindset by how they praise children. Praising effort rather than ability leads children to press on in the face of learning challenges rather than give up when things become difficult. Praising intelligence can actually have a negative impact and create a fixed mindset.
Dweck’s work has implications in numerous areas ranging from education and business and sports.
If you are interested in reading some of Dweck’s writings and research, you can explore some of her published works including journal articles and books:
- Dweck, C. S. (2008). Can personality be changed? The role of beliefs in personality and change. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 17(6), 391-394.
- Dweck, C. S. (1999). Self-Theories: Their Role in Motivation, Personality and Development. Philadelphia: Psychology Press.
- Elliot, A. J., & Dweck, C. S. (Eds.). (2005). Handbook of Competence and Motivation. New York: Guilford.
- Heckhausen, J., & Dweck, C. S. (Eds.). (1998). Motivation and Self-Regulation Across the Life Span. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
- Heyman, G. D., Dweck, C. S., & Cain, K. M. (1992). Young children’s vulnerability to self-blame and helplessness: Relationship to beliefs about goodness. Child Development, 63, 401-415.
- Olson, K. R. & Dweck, C. S. (2008). A blueprint for social cognitive development. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 3(3), 193-202.
Contributions to Psychology
Dweck’s research on mindsets has provided valuable insight into how beliefs about intelligence influence achievement and motivation. Her work has found that these mindsets can have a powerful influence on performance and how people deal with challenges.
Dweck has also received numerous honors and awards for her work including:
- Being elected to the American Academy of Arts and Science in 2003
- The Donald Campbell Career Achievement Award in Social Psychology from the Society for Personality and Social Psychology in 2008
- The Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award from the American Psychological Association in 2011
- The James McKeen Cattell Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association for Psychological Science in 2013
“After seven experiments with hundreds of children, we had some of the clearest findings I’ve ever seen: Praising children’s intelligence harms their motivation and it harms their performance. How can that be? Don’t children love to be praised? Yes, children love praise. And they especially love to be praised for their intelligence and talent. It really does give them a boost, a special glow—but only for the moment. The minute they hit a snag, their confidence goes out the window and their motivation hits rock bottom. If success means they’re smart, then failure means they’re dumb. That’s the fixed mindset.” (Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, 2006)
“Did I win? Did I lose? Those are the wrong questions. The correct question is: Did I make my best effort?” If so, he says, “You may be outscored but you will never lose.” (Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, 2006)
“If parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is to teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning. That way, their children don’t have to be slaves of praise. They will have a lifelong way to build and repair their own confidence.” (Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, 2006)
Dweck C. Carol Dweck. Learning and the Adolescent Mind.
Dweck, Carol S. – The Department of Psychology. (n.d.). Stanford University.
Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. New York: Random House.