Danger statements: “You are so smart.” “You are so talented.”
5th Grade Study:
In 1998, Carol Dweck and a colleague took 400 fifth-graders and gave them a series of simple puzzles. Afterwards, each of the students was given his or her score,
plus something else: Six words of praise.
- Half the students were praised for intelligence: “You must be smart at this!”
- The other half were praised for effort: “You must have worked really hard!”
The results were remarkable. After the first test, the students were given a choice of whether to take a hard or easy test.
- Two thirds of the students praised for intelligence chose the easy task: they did not want to risk losing their “smart” label or potentially failing at the harder test.
- 90% of the effort praised group chose the tough test: they were not interested in success, but in exploring a potentially fruitful challenge. They wanted to prove just how hard-working they were.
Next, the students were given a test so tough that none of them succeeded. Once again, there was a dramatic difference between the ways they responded to failure.
- Those praised for intelligence interpreted their failures as proof that they were no good at puzzles at all.
- The group praise for effort persevered on the test for longer, enjoyed it Far more, and did not suffer any loss in confidence.
Finally, the experiment came full circle, giving the students a chance to do a test of equal difficulty to the very first test. What happened?
- The group praised for intelligence showed a 20% decline in performance compared with the first test, even though it was no harder.
- Those in the effort-praised group increased their scores by 30%: failure had actually spurred them on.
Be wary of danger statements. They are instrumental in building one’s self-esteem and can be detrimental to future execution.