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human motivation article notes

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PSYC 471
Richard Koestner

Motivation Article # 10: The Secret to Raising Smart Kids A focus on effort—not on intelligence or ability—is key to success in school and in life More than 30 years of scientific investigation suggests that an overemphasis on intellect or talent leaves people vulnerable to failure, fearful of challenges and unwilling to remedy their shortcomings. These children coast through early grades under the dangerous notion that no-effort academic achievement defines them as smart of gifted. Such children hold an implicit belief that intelligence is innate and fixed, making striving to learn seem far less important than being smart. This belief also makes them see challenges, mistakes and even the need to exert effort as threats to their ego rather than as opportunities to improve. And it causes them to lose confidence and motivation when the work is no longer easy for them. Praising children’s innate abilities reinforces this mind set. Studies show that teaching people to have a “growth mind-set” which encourages a focus on effort rather than on intelligence or talent, helps make them into high achievers in school and in life. The Opportunity of Defeat Animal experiments by Seligman, Maier and Solomon have shown that after repeated failures, most animals conclude that a situation is hopeless and beyond control. After such an experience, the researchers found, an animal often remains passive even when it can affect change—a state they called learned helplessness. In particular, attributing poor performance to a lack of ability depresses motivation more than does the belief that lack of effort is to blame. A focus on effort can help resolve helplessness and engender success. The most persistent students do not ruminate about their own failure much at all but instead think of mistakes as problems to be solved. Two Views of Intelligence: Helpless vs. Mastery-Oriented The helpless ones believe that intelligence is a fixed trait: you have only a certain amount and that’s that. This is a “fixed mind-set.” Mistakes crack their self-confidence because they attribute errors to lack of ability, which they feel powerless to change. They avoid challenges because challenges make mistakes more likely and looking smart less so. The mastery-oriented children think intelligence is malleable and can be developed through education and hard work. They want to learn above all else. Because slipups stem from lack of effort, they can be remedied by more effort. Challenges are energizing rather than intimidating; they offer opportunities to learn. Students with such a growth mind-set are destined for greater academic success and are likely to outperform their counterparts. Students with a growth mind-set felt that learning was a more important goal in school than getting good grades. In addition, they held hard work in high regard, believing that the more you laboured at something, the better you would become at it. They understood that even geniuses have to work hard for their great accomplishments. Confronted by a setback such as a disappointing test grade, students with a growth mind-set said they would study harder or try a different strategy for mastering the material. Students with a fixed mind-set were concerned about looking smart with little regard for learning. They had negative views of effort, believing that having to work hard at some
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