Believing You Can Increase Your Intelligence Is Important

A recent study1 demonstrates why this is so. How people respond to their mistakes depends on what they believe about learning and intelligence. People who believe that intelligence develops through effort see mistakes as opportunities to learn and improve. People who believe that intelligence is a stable characteristic see mistakes as indications of a lack of ability. The former group is said to have growth mind-sets, and the latter group is said to have fixed mind-sets. The nature of an individual’s mind-set can be determined from questionnaire items. The researchers examined performance-monitoring event-related potentials (ERPs) to study the neural mechanisms underlying these different reactions to mistakes.

Twenty-five experimental participants performed a classification task, in which accuracy and speed were equally emphasized, while their ERPs were recorded. Upon completion of the experimental task, the participants completed a questionnaire using a Theory of Intelligence Scale to assess their implicit theories of intelligence (fixed or with growth potential). The findings indicated that participants with a growth mindset showed an enhancement of the error positivity component (Pe) of the ERP. This component reflects awareness of and allocation of attention to mistakes. So participants with a growth mind-set were more aware of their mistakes and allocated more attention to correcting these mistakes.

For a long time the argument was made that IQ tests indicated a fixed level of intelligence that was difficult or impossible to change. Recent research has indicated that this view of intelligence is not fixed, and that it can be improved. However, for intelligence to be improved the individual must believe that it can be improved. When this is believed, attentional resources are allocated for improvement. Otherwise, attentional resources are not allocated for improvement. This is in accordance with what makes a person a true expert. Many, many, many hours of deliberate practice are required to achieve true expertise (See the healthymemory blog post, “Deliberate Practice.”. Similarly to improve your IQ, you need to believe that it can be improved and work to improve.

It appears that whether or not you improve your intelligence is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you believe it can be improved, it will likely improve. If you don’t believe that it can be improved, then it will not be improved. In other words, if you believe you are stupid or of average intelligence, you will remain being stupid or of average intelligence. To increase your intelligence, believe and apply yourself.

1Moser, J.S., Schroder, H.S., Heeter, C., Moran, T.P., & Lee, Y.H. (2011). M ind Your Errors Evidence for a Neural Mechanism Linking Growth Mind-set to Adaptive Posterror Adjustments., Psychological Science, 22, 1484-1489.

© Douglas Griffith and, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


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