Boost Intelligence by Focusing on Growth

Boost Intelligence by Focusing on Growth

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Is intelligence innate, or can you boost it with effort? The way you answer that question may determine how well you learn. Those who think smarts are malleable are more likely to bounce back from their mistakes and make fewer errors in the future, according to a study published in Psychological Science.

Researchers at Michigan State University asked 25 undergraduate students to participate in a simple, repetitive computer task. When they made a mistake, the subjects realized it almost immediately—at which point their brain produced two tiny electrical responses that the researchers recorded using electrodes. The first reaction indicates awareness that a mistake was made, whereas the second, called error positivity, is believed to represent the desire to fix that slipup. Later, the researchers asked the students whether they believed intelligence was fixed or could be learned. Although everyone slowed down after erring, those who were “growth-minded”—that is, people who considered intelligence to be pliable—elicited stronger error-positivity responses than the other subjects. They subsequently made fewer mistakes, too.

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