Growth mindset interventions with more effect through neurofeedback

Many see the growth mindset as an important concept for education. However, recent studies show relatively modest effects of growth mindset interventions on school outcomes. New research by Tieme Janssen and Nienke van Atteveld (2022) shows a specific improvement of growth mindset interventions. They not only explained to students about neuroplasticity, the ability of the brain to constantly change, but also let them experience these changes themselves through neurofeedback. Below I briefly describe their research.

Mindset theory

The growth mindset has become a familiar concept in the world of education and beyond. A growth mindset is the belief that with effective effort you can get better at the things you would like to get better at. Such a belief helps to face challenges, to learn, to perform and to feel good. 
Growth mindset interventions can be effective: 
  1. when targeted to the target audience that needs them, 
  2. carried out appropriately, 
  3. in a context supportive of the growth mindset.

Why effect sizes of growth mindset interventions may be modest

Recent studies have shown relatively small effects of growth mindset interventions and some researchers have suggested, based on their studies, that growth mindset interventions have little or no effect. I recently wrote two articles about this:
  1. Heterogeneity is key: In this article I explain how two recent meta-analyses reach different conclusions about the usefulness of growth mindset interventions. I conclude that growth mindset interventions are useful for specific groups.
  2. False Growth Mindsets Suppress found effect sizes: In this article I explain that there is such a thing as a false growth mindset. People with a false growth mindset say they embrace the growth mindset but behave more in line with a fixed mindset. I conclude that the way mindsets have been measured in studies to date may suppress the true effects of growth mindsets. 

Janssen & Atteveld: experiencing neuroplasticity

A recent study offers a new explanation for the relatively modest effects found in studies of growth mindset interventions. In this study, Janssen & Atteveld (2022) come up with a specific improvement of growth mindset interventions.
In growth mindset interventions that have been conducted to date, students have been told about the effects of neuroplasticity, the brain's ability to continue to develop. 
Janssen & Atteveld developed a growth mindset intervention in which they not only explained neuroplasticity, but also let students experience changing brain activity themselves. Using mobile electroencephalography (EEG) neurofeedback, they let students experience that they could increase their ability to concentrate.

The research

In a randomized controlled trial (RCT), twenty high school classes (N = 439) were randomized to either the active control condition (no mindset messaging) or our newly developed growth mindset intervention condition (4×50min). The research had the following design: in lesson 1, students learned about brain plasticity, in lesson 2 they learned about the growth mindset, in lesson 2 they experienced their own influence on their own brain activity using neurofeedback and in lesson 4 they learned how everything is related with their own school career.


Students in the growth mindset intervention condition reported increased growth mindset immediately after the intervention (post, d = .38) and at 1 year follow-up (d = .25) and showed a protective effect against worsening math grades at 1 year follow-up up (d = .36), compared to controls. 
Compared to previous studies, the authors found relatively large effects of the intervention on growth mindset and math grades, which they attributed to synergistic effects of explaining neuroplasticity and psychophysiological (neurofeedback) components.