My problem?

Cory Doctorow reviews a book by Jonah Lehrer called “How We Decide”, which seems interesting and seems to have a lot of interesting parts, from the role of dopamine to the paralysis induced by purely rational decision making. The following passage, though, was the one that leapt out at me:

These mistakes are critical to good decision-making, as they are our best tutors. Lehrer describes a famous study from Stanford psych research Carol Dweck, who administered easy tests to 10-year-olds, who did well on it. The control group was praised for “being smart.” The experimental group was praised for “trying hard.” With only this difference, the two groups were then administered progressively harder tests. Dweck discovered that the “smart” kids did worse: they believed their initial good result was due to some innate virtue beyond their ken or control, and feared that a failure would show that they lacked this intangible. But the “hard-trying” group had been rewarded for taking intellectual risks, and so they continued. Afterwards, the “smart” kids rated the hardest tests as their least favorite; the “tryers” rated it as their most favorite.

I have a feeling that this at least partially explains why my academic performance -and right alongside it, my interest in academics- declined so dramatically after coming to the institute. I don’t think I’ve EVER been praised for “trying hard”. Of course, I can’t blame anyone for how they chose to encourage me in high school, and I’m hardly a 10 year old. I should be able to plow past these knee-jerk responses. But I can’t help wondering…


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