June 2, 2015

Mindset and personality

I often meet people who think that personality is hardly malleable. They think that personality is something which you have been given by your genes and early life experiences and that who you are in essence is not or hardly changeable. Some time ago I wrote Changing your personality in which I argued that personality is more malleable than we have long thought. Also, I mentioned a few studies which seem to confirm this belief. But you could ask yourself: what does it matter whether or not you believe that personality is malleable? I think it matters a lot and I came across an article which seems to support that belief:

Yeager, et al. (2014) demonstrated in three studies that mindset with respect to personality (believing whether of not personality is malleable) has important immediate and long term consequences.
The far-reaching effects of believing people can change: implicit theories of personality shape stress, health, and achievement during adolescence.
Abstract: The belief that personality is fixed (an entity theory of personality) can give rise to negative reactions to social adversities. Three studies showed that when social adversity is common-at the transition to high school--an entity theory can affect overall stress, health, and achievement. Study 1 showed that an entity theory of personality, measured during the 1st month of 9th grade, predicted more negative immediate reactions to social adversity and, at the end of the year, greater stress, poorer health, and lower grades in school. Studies 2 and 3, both experiments, tested a brief intervention that taught a malleable (incremental) theory of personality--the belief that people can change. The incremental theory group showed less negative reactions to an immediate experience of social adversity and, 8 months later, reported lower overall stress and physical illness. They also achieved better academic performance over the year. Discussion centers on the power of targeted psychological interventions to effect far-reaching and long-term change by shifting interpretations of recurring adversities during developmental transitions.

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