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Implicit Theories of Intelligence Predict Achievement Across an Adolescent Transition: A Longitudinal Study and an Intervention


  • This research was funded by grants from the William T. Grant Foundation and the Spencer Foundation. The authors are grateful to Dr. Morton Slater, founder of the Gateway Schools program; to the students, teachers, and principals of the Queens Gateway Secondary and Life Sciences Secondary Schools for their cooperation in this research; and to the undergraduate students of Columbia University who assisted in conducting our studies. Finally, we thank Steve Raudenbush for his advice on key statistical analyses.

concerning this article should be addressed to Carol S. Dweck, Department of Psychology, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305. Electronic mail may be sent to


Two studies explored the role of implicit theories of intelligence in adolescents' mathematics achievement. In Study 1 with 373 7th graders, the belief that intelligence is malleable (incremental theory) predicted an upward trajectory in grades over the two years of junior high school, while a belief that intelligence is fixed (entity theory) predicted a flat trajectory. A mediational model including learning goals, positive beliefs about effort, and causal attributions and strategies was tested. In Study 2, an intervention teaching an incremental theory to 7th graders (N=48) promoted positive change in classroom motivation, compared with a control group (N=43). Simultaneously, students in the control group displayed a continuing downward trajectory in grades, while this decline was reversed for students in the experimental group.