The growth mindset and intrinsic motivation contribute independently to persistence

One way to describe what the progress-focused approach means is captured in a model which I introduced in my book Kiezen voor progressie. The model (see figure right) describes how both a growth mindset and autonomous motivation contribute to effective effort and how effort in turn creates progress. In this post you read more about this model and it may be used. Looking at this model you might wonder if there should also be an arrow between the growth mindset and autonomous motivation. Do these two influence each other, too? I have thought this before and several people have asked me about it. As far as I know it has been studied only once.

What is the relation between the growth mindset and autonomous motivation?

Renaud-Dubé et al. (2015) examined the relations between mindset (implicit beliefs about the malleability of intelligence) and autonomous motivation. They surveyed high school students (N=650) and examined the relations between these variables via structural equation modeling (SEM). Previous research has shown that both the growth mindset and autonomous motivation predict student persistence. The researchers expected that their findings would show that autonomous motivation mediated the association between the growth mindset and persistence. But this was not the case. They found two interesting things. First, they found that mindset was not related to autonomous motivation. In other words, having a growth mindset does not imply that you will find the subject also more interesting or important. Second, they found that intrinsic motivation was the only aspect of motivation which predicted persistence. The figure below shows theses findings.


Both students with a growth mindset and intrinsic motivation reported greater persistence. These findings suggest that there are two independent processes. The effects of a growth mindset and intrinsic motivation appear to be additive. This suggests that, in a school context, it is best to create a context which promotes both a growth mindset and intrinsic motivation. A growth mindset can be promoted by providing information about the malleability of intelligence (and other personal characteristics) and through the way teacher communicate with students (read more). Intrinsic motivation is present in every student but the degree to which it is expressed depends on the degree to which the need for autonomy and competence are supported (read more).