Believing You Can Get Smarter Makes You Smarter

Most of us believe that women are just not that good in math, at least compared to men. Some of us believe that some races are smarter than others. A safe example would be that the Chinese are better in math than other races. Then there are those of us who believe that intelligence is fixed.

Social psychologists say that even just evoking these stereotypes is enough to damage the academic performance of people who belong to these groups.

Social psychologist Claude Steele and his collaborators (2002) call it "stereotype threat."

Researches on intelligence and "stereotype threat"

Social psychologists Aronson, Fried, and Good (2001) created a potential remedy to the stereotype threat.

They trained African American and European American college students to think of intelligence not as fixed, but as variable (many psychological studies suggests this lesson is true).

Students who are part of a control group did not know about this "message."

Those who were taught about the changeability of IQ’s improved their grades more than the students who did not receive the message about IQ’s flexibility. These students also viewed academics as more important than did their counterparts in the control group.  

What’s more, African American students gained more from learning about IQ’s changeable nature than European American students did.

This study suggests that this intervention may successfully combat stereotype threat.

Source: APA