The most important message we can send to all children is that
intelligence and talent are not something you are born with or not –
these are things that can be grown, and evolved with effort and practice.
The most dangerous myth we allow children to think
is that we either have talent and potential or not,
and that there isn’t much we can do if ‘we don’t have it’.
- It’s a message that perpetuates unevolved, primitive thinking
about certain communities of people – whether this is class or color based
– being ‘born better’ than others.
- It’s a message that damages children in spiritual and emotional ways and
prevents them from believing in themselves and persevering in the face of failure.
- It also happens to be scientifically inaccurate.
Brain studies are proving over and over again that the brain responds to effort and intention
– and will grow like a muscle when we push ourselves to learn and evolve in deliberate ways.
Students who learn that the brain is
‘like a muscle’ and grows with use
(as opposed to you’re either ‘smart’ or not)
– stay in school longer,
have better attendance,
and are more likely to attend college
For example, in one study, two groups of college students were shown videos of older students at the same college.
- One group (the treatment group) was shown a video of older students at the same university
talking about their difficulties in college. They also made a point to talk about how their
GPA improved over time, even though they had these difficulties at first.
- The other group (the control group) saw a video of the same group of older students,
but with no talk about their grades or performance.
What they found:
- One week after the video screenings, the treatment group got much higher scores than the control group on practice GRE questions.
- One year later, the treatment group also had higher GPAs
- The treatment group was also 80 percent less likely to have dropped out of college than the control group.
There are many other studies like this. Go to the University of Chicago’s Consortium for School Research to see some of this research (and see below for references).
Talent is not so much about the ‘successes’ as it is our ability and desire
to get up after we fall and show the world what we’re made of.
One key thing we can do as adults:
praise effort and process, not intelligence.
“I love how hard you worked on that!”
“It looks like you put so much effort into that!”
As opposed to “you’re so smart! You’re a genius!”
We need to stop allowing ourselves and young people to continue
the inaccurate belief that if you’re not reaching your highest level of talent and potential,
it’s because ‘you don’t have what it takes’.
We all have what it takes – but sometimes a young person needs to hear this consistently
from the adults (who truly believe this message)
in order for that young person to believe it for themselves.
Talent is not so much about the ‘successes’ as it is our ability and desire to get up after we fall and show the world what we’re made of.
— Stefanie Frank (@stefanieffrank) May 27, 2015
Wilson, T.D. and Linville, P.W. (1982) Improving the academic performance of college freshmen: Attribution theory revisited. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 42, 367-376
Wilson, T.D., and Linville, P.W. (1985). Improving the performance of college freshmen with attributional techniques. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 49, 287-293