The workshop tells participants that the brain can change, that
people’s personalities can change, and that people act based on
thoughts and motivations, rather than because they are “bad” or
“good” — again, features open to change.
In a not-yet-published study, the team found that after
the workshop, ninth and 10th graders were less likely to want
to exact revenge on “bullies” following a pre-programmed
computerized lab game where a three-way game of catch turns
into a two-way game that automatically excludes one child. They
were also more likely to write friendly rather than vengeful notes
to the youngsters who had “excluded” them in the game.
These positive effects held up at three months. The findings
suggest a way out of a negative trajectory that plagues many
high schools, Dweck said.
“Learning a growth mindset about yourself and your peers
allows you to act constructively in the face of social challenges
and to achieve a greater overall school experience,” she said.
A new way to combat prejudice?
Dweck, Stanford graduate student Priyanka Carr and
postdoctoral student Kristin Parker, PhD, are also tackling
the complex area of prejudice. In a series of studies currently
under review, the team again began by looking at whether
people believe prejudice is a fixed or malleable trait. They
also measured the conscious and unconscious prejudice of
They found that participants who believed mindsets couldn’t
be changed were more likely to act in prejudiced ways, by, for
example, placing their chairs farther away from an African-
American participant during a discussion.
Next, the team assigned participants to read one of two sets
of articles, one endorsing the idea that prejudice is fixed, the
other that it’s a malleable trait.
According to independent raters, after reading the articles,
both groups acted friendly with white partners, but those who
had read the articles that said people’s prejudices can change
also acted friendly with a black partner — even those initially
found to be high in prejudice. Participants who had read the
fixed-mindset articles, however, did not act as friendly to the
Next, the team will examine an understudied area that could
have a big impact on campus climate: the mindsets of college
roommates of different ethnicities.
“We know from research that intergroup or interracial
roommates often have a very anxious time with each other,”
Dweck said. “We’re wondering what role these beliefs about
prejudice may play in these situations, and how we can
intervene to make these interactions more successful.” n