An Economists’ Guide to Mindset: Evidence From A Field Experiment in Norway
AbstractThis paper experimentally tests whether “growth mindset” interventions can increase high school students’ achievement. An extensive literature in psychology has documented strong links between a student’s academic mindset and underperformance (Dweck, 2006, Yeager & Dweck, 2012). Students with a “fixed mindset” believe their intelligence or talents are fixed traits. By contrast, students with a growth mindset believe that their abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. Numerous studies demonstrate that growth mindset predicts increased learning and higher grades over time as compared to a fixed mindset (Yeager & Dweck, 2012). Moreover, recent studies have demonstrated that large scale, web-based interventions can directly teach growth mindsets in academic settings and cause lasting improvements in motivation and learning (Paunesku et al., 2015, Yeager et al., 2015).<br />
In the spring of 2016, high school students in Norway participated in a field experiment investigating effects of a mindset intervention (n=380). We randomly assigned students to either a mindset condition or a control condition similar to the web-based conditions used in Yeager et al., (2015) yet carefully adapted to Norwegian language, culture and context. The mindset condition exposes students to growth mindset through online reading and writing exercises. These exercises focus on the malleability of intellectual abilities discussing the brain’s potential to grow and change, how to cope with confusion and difficulty, and how these challenges improve the neural connections in one’s brain. In the control condition students completed analogous activities, which taught facts about memory and the brain, but did not address the malleability of intellectual ability. We investigate intervention effect on students’ challenge seeking, effort and performance on algebra questions, and end of semester grades.