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November 22, 2015

How to develop persistence?

Psychologist Angela Duckworth chose the term grit to describe people's ability to work hard and keep on focusing on their long term goals. According to Duckworth this ability enables people to accomplish a lot in their lives. If one views grit as something worthwhile (which it indeed seems to be although I also have several critical questions about the construct) one might wonder how to develop it.

November 21, 2015

Spreading Western values?

A few hundred years ago, since the scientific revolution, the age of enlightenment, and the industrial revolution, an explosive progress has taken place in prosperity, health, freedom, and justice. This progress begin in Western countries and is now spreading across the world. This development is a long term process. There is still much poverty and injustice in the world and thus much further progress needed.

Some skeptics think that spreading the values and principles which have contributed to such great progress in the Western world actually comes down to spreading Western values. Therefore, it would be a way to establish Western dominance.

November 16, 2015

Letting go of limiting beliefs

Being able to change your beliefs is necessary for keeping on playing a positive role in the world. Not being able to think critically about your own beliefs and to change them when they are not true eventually will keep you from playing a constructive role. An ultimate example of the inability to change one's views can be found in religious fanatics who create death and destruction while believing they are doing something good.

Letting go of beliefs can be important but also hard.

November 14, 2015

Believing in progress is not the same as believing in perfection

Recently, a debate took place between Steven Pinker and Matt Ridley on the one site and Malcolm Gladwell and Alain de Botton on the other side. The debate was about the motion 'human kind's best days lie ahead'. Pinker and Ridley defended the motion, Gladwell and de Botton argued against it. You can watch the debate here if you take a free subscription to the Munk Debates website.

November 12, 2015

Autonomous motivation: interesting and/or important

I'd like to clear up a possible misunderstanding about the distinction between intrinsic motivation (doing what you find interesting) and internalized motivation (doing what you find important). Ed Deci explains in this video that the distinction between controlled and autonomous motivation is an important one. Our motivation is controlled when we are either coerced or seduced into a behavior. When our motivation is controlled we may experience stress and anxiety. Also, we find it harder to persist and the quality of our performance is relatively low. When we are autonomously motivated we experience willingness and volition. We also feel and perform better and persist longer.

November 10, 2015

The power of intrinsic goals

New research shows two interesting things: 1) that people achieve more progress on goals which are connected to intrinsic aspirations, and 2) that people experience greater vitality when when making progress on intrinsic goals.

The humble path to progress: Goal-specific aspirational content predicts goal progress and goal vitality
- Hope, Milyavskaya, Holding & Koestner (2015)

November 3, 2015

Study: old people better at correcting their mistakes than young people

That most of our abilities decline as we age, is a fact. But is this equally true for all our abilities? No. In this article I write that certain abilities can grow into old age. Also, I write that certain meta-cognitions such as mildness may increase and attitudes such as egocentrism may decrease. In this article I mention several other examples. This week I came across another example of something which we may get better at as we get older.

November 2, 2015

How intelligent people can keep believing in what is not true

How can it be that we sometimes keep holding on to certain beliefs of which we could know, and perhaps deep inside do know, that they are not true? Think about things like magical thinking, superstition and views which logically can't be true and things we have proven to be untrue? In a new article, Believing What We Do Not Believe: Acquiescence to Superstitious Beliefs and Other Powerful Intuitions, Jane Risen looks at this question from the perspective of dual process models such as Kahneman's model distinguishing system 1 and 2 thinking.

October 28, 2015

What is a growth mindset not?

Perhaps a growth mindset sounds attractive. But perhaps it also sounds to good to be true. Therefore, let's have a look at what a growth mindset is and what it is not. Briefly put, a growth mindset is the belief that you can change your abilities though the investment of effective effort. People do not simply either have a growth mindset or a fixed mindset. Mindset is not like a switch with just two modes: fixed or growth. Instead, there are many degrees possible. It is better to think of mindset as a continuum than as a switch. Furthermore, mindset can be subject to fluctuations. Influences from our environment continuously act on how we think about the malleability of our abilities. In addition to that, it is normal to have different mindsets with respect to different topics. We may believe that we are able to develop certain abilities but may never improve other abilities.

October 27, 2015

What do you choose: mastery goals or performance goals?

An important distinction in psychology is the distinction between mastery goals and performance goals. Mastery goals are goals which focus on learning new knowledge and skills. Performance goals are about achieving and competing for outcomes. This distinction is important for education. Should you focus on teaching students to set mastery goals or is it wiser to teach them to set performance goals? What works better?

4 Factors which impede change of beliefs

Because beliefs have such great influence in our lives, it is important to be able to evaluate our beliefs properly and to keep developing them. Beliefs are malleable. We can find out that a belief we used to have is untrue and restricts us in our life. But changing our beliefs is not always easy. That is because, as people, we have certain obstacles which may impede changing our beliefs. I want to mention four of those obstacles.

October 15, 2015

Book: Building Autonomous Learners

Self-determination theory is applicable to many areas of life. Education is a good example. There is a new book which deals specifically with this area of application: Building autonomous learners. Perspectives from Research and Practice using Self-Determination Theory.

October 14, 2015

Activity scheduling and depression

There are different types of ways to deal with mental problems such as depression. Three such ways are: (1) taking medication, (2) going into therapy, and (3) helping yourself to solve it. A lot of research has been done into the efficacy of (1) and (2). Less research has been done into (3). There is a non-cynical interpretation of this but also a more cynical interpretation. I don't know which interpretation is more valid. There may be truth in both of them.

October 5, 2015

Choosing better education and a growth mindset

Recently I criticized an article by Alfie Kohn in which he criticized Carol Dweck. Whether Kohn does not understand the growth mindset well, and is not well informed about mindset research, or deliberately misleads, I don't know. But what he says, isn't true. I want to focus on one of his criticisms because it contains an especially misleading thought. Kohn suggests that promoting a growth mindset implicitly sends the message to just accept and adjust to the conditions we encounter instead of changing them. I'll explain why this is not true.

October 4, 2015

The limiting effects of implicit self-beliefs

Our beliefs about ourselves can have a strong impact on how we behave and on how we develop and flourish. We are not always aware of our self-beliefs. There are what we call implicit self-beliefs. An example of such an implicit self-belief might be: "I am not a math person." Researchers Cvencek et al. (2015) of the University of Washington found, in a study with 299 Singaporean elementary-school students that children of this age often already have such implicit beliefs about whether they are or aren't 'math people'.