An Implicit Theories of Personality Intervention Reduces Adolescent Aggression in Response to Victimization and Exclusion


  • Support for this research was provided in part by the Thrive Foundation for Youth, a Spencer Foundation Dissertation Fellowship for Research Related to Education, a Dissertation Research Award from the American Psychological Association, and a Dissertation Funding Award from the Society for Research on Child Development. A paper based on this research was presented at the World Conference of the International Society for Research on Aggression. The authors are grateful for help conducting the study from Kevin Blunt, Cary Catching, Yii Wen Chua, Yana Galperin, Laura Klivans, Joseph Lester, Adriana Miu, Kerry Morrissey, Shannon Morrissey, Alexandria Ordway, Katherine Rodela, Ahmad Saleh, Craig Schuldt, Hector Villalpando, Whitney Worthen, Mandy Zibart, and for comments and feedback from Geoffrey Cohen, Gregory Walton, members of the Dweck-Walton laboratory, and members of the Political Psychology Research Group at Stanford University.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to David Yeager, Department of Psychology, University of Texas at Austin, 1 University Station #A8000, Austin, TX 78712. Electronic mail may be sent to


Adolescents are often resistant to interventions that reduce aggression in children. At the same time, they are developing stronger beliefs in the fixed nature of personal characteristics, particularly aggression. The present intervention addressed these beliefs. A randomized field experiment with a diverse sample of Grades 9 and 10 students (ages 14–16, n = 230) tested the impact of a 6-session intervention that taught an incremental theory (a belief in the potential for personal change). Compared to no-treatment and coping skills control groups, the incremental theory group behaved significantly less aggressively and more prosocially 1 month postintervention and exhibited fewer conduct problems 3 months postintervention. The incremental theory and the coping skills interventions also eliminated the association between peer victimization and depressive symptoms.