October 4, 2015

How robust are research findings on the growth mindset?

Recently I wrote about the replication problem in the social sciences. A big team of researchers has replicated 100 psychological studies which were published in prominent journals. The result: many of the effects that were found in the original studies were not found in the replication studies en many of the effects that were found were weaker. I wondered whether among those studies there were also studiers on the growth mindset and, if yes, whether their effects were also found in the replication studies.

The answer is, there were no growth mindset studies in the list of replicated studies. While looking into this, I did come across a recent publication from 2014. In that study a systematic analysis was done on 18 psychology publication in the journal Science published between 2005 and 2012. One of those 18 studies was a study about mindsets. In that study, done by Francis et al. (2014) the relationship between empirical data and theoretical conclusions was analyzed. These researcher conducted a ‘test for excess significance’ (read here what that is) and found that of the 18 investigated studies only 3 were not suspected of excess success. One of those three articles was the article on the growth mindset: Promoting the Middle East peace process by changing beliefs about group malleability.

I also came across a meta-analysis which was done in 2013 in which all mindset studies up till then were included:  Mind-sets matter: A meta-analytic review of implicit theories and self-regulation (Burnette et al., 2013, also find it here). This meta-analysis shows that mindsets matter. Briefly put: mindset predicts self-regulation which predicts performance. To elaborate a bit: a growth mindset (in contrast to a fixed mindset) predicts (1) what type of goals you set (learning goals vs achievement goals), (2) goal operating (mastery-oriented strategies vs helpless-oriented strategies), and (3) goal monitoring (expectations vs negative emotions).

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