Why praising people for their intelligence can hurt them

Dr. Carol Dweck gave every child a test that consisted of fairly easy puzzles. Afterward the  researcher informed all the children of their scores, adding a single six-word sentence of praise. Half the kids were praised for their intelligence (“You must be smart at this”) and half were praised for their effort (“You must have worked really hard”).

The kids were tested a second time but this time they were offered a choice between the harder test and an easier test. Ninety percent of the kids who’d been praised for their effort choice the harder test. A majority of the kids who’d been praised for the intelligence, on the other hand, chose the easy test. Why? “When we praise children for their intelligence.” Dweck wrote, “we tell them that that's the name of the game: look smart, don't risk making mistakes.”

The third level of tests was uniformly harder; none of the kids did well. However, the two groups of kids--the praised-for-effort group and the praised-for-intelligence group--responding very differently to the situation. “(The effort group) dug in and grew very involved with the test, trying solutions, testing strategies,” Dweck said. “They later said they liked it. But the group praised for its intelligence hated the harder test. They took it as proof they weren’t smart.

Daniel Coyle, The Talent Code