Monday, October 16, 2006

Belief about Intelligence : how it affects performance and how it is formed

Affective Teaching keeps posting some interesting basic cognitive tutorials and their latest one deals with the different concepts people have regarding intelligence and how that affects performance and attitudes.

As per that tutorial, people can either have fixed (entity) or trait-like view of intelligence/ abilities or a changeable (incremental) or skill-like view of intelligence/ abilities. Interestingly, those with fixed view are more prone to learned helplessness, external locus of control, less persistence and lack of use of learning strategies. On the other hand those with changeable view of intelligence are more persistent, having a mastery goal or orientation and apt to use learning strategies and credit success to effort and strategy.

This same difference in attitudes and outcomes was predicted by my recent blog post where I analyzed the differential effects of providing generic (person based) versus specific (outcome based) feedback and praise. It was surmised that this would lead to differential view of intelligence/abilities as being trait-like or skill-like in nature. It is heartening to note that existing research supports such a differentiation in the conceptualization of intelligence by individuals and also predicts accurately the different outcomes based on different underlying conceptualizations.

It should thus be clear that providing the right sort of feedback to the child is very important so that they hook on to the right conceptualization of intelligence early on. This may also go long way in settling the expertise debate: genius have a mastery orientation and an incremental view of intelligence which is different form the normal trait-like view held by most people. Thus, it is not just the case that that they are either more talented or just better learners (although they are both) ; they also have a different attitude- and a different underlying concept of intelligence/ability- which is very much a result of the environmental feedback they received in childhood ans is instrumental in making them what they are.

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alvaro said...

Hi Sandy,

Needless to say, at SharpBrains we KNOW that certain cognitive skills can be trained, and at any age, so we hope to contribute to a change in perception.

It is interesting to observe how many times we get lost in debates about definitions (fluid intelligence, IQ, working memory, executive functions...) and don't focus enough on the training and exercise benefits of mental stimulation.

We should maybe print millions of Marian Diamond's Magic Trees of The Mind and make its reading requisite for voting...

Sandy G said...


While theoretical concerns like the composite factors of IQ/executive functions have their own importance in the sense that they enable us to come up with more precise measuring devices and more specific intervention strategies; yet I could not agree more with you on the primary importance of practical interventions like training , exercise and right nutrition (both physical and mental) to keep us fit and develop our capacities to the maximum.

Haven't read Magic trees of the Mind, but just read an excerpt on amazon after your recommendation and the book looks extremely promising. Thanks for pointing me to that book.

alvaro said...

Sandy, you can read some beautiful writings by Marian Diamond here

She was able to move her field from fiction to non-fiction :-)


PS: of course, I do appreciate the value of assessments. Specially, action-oriented ones.