Summary: Carol Dweck and others have Identified two implicit theories of intelligence. Those learners who have an “entity” theory view intelligence as being an unchangeable, fixed internal characteristic. Those who have an “incremental” theory believe that their intelligence is malleable and can be increased through effort.

Originators: Carol Dweck, based on over 30 years of research on belief systems, and their role in motivation and achievement. Discussed in her book Self-Theories: Their Role in Motivation, Personality, and Development (1999).

Key Terms: entity theory, incremental theory

Self-Theories (Dweck)

Carol Dweck (currently at Indiana University) describes a series of empirically-based studies that investigate how people develop beliefs about themselves (i.e., self-theories) and how these self-theories create their psychological worlds, shaping thoughts, feelings and behaviors. The theories reveal why some students are motivated to work harder, and why others fall into patterns of helplessness and are self-defeating. Dweck’s conclusions explore the implications for the concept of self-esteem, suggesting a rethinking of its role in motivation, and the conditions that foster it. She demonstrated empirically that students who hold an entity theory of intelligence are less likely to attempt challenging tasks and are at risk for academic underachievement.

Students carry two types of views on ability/intelligence:

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