Introductory Seminars for First-Year Students

Self Theories


Are high achievers just smarter than others? Are leaders born rather than made? Are great athletes simply naturals? In this seminar we will explore the contribution of nature (talent) and nurture (experience, effort) to people's achievement. We will discuss new research that highlights the role of nurture. That is, we will examine evidence that our brains are malleable, that intelligence can be taught and increased even in adulthood, and that genius stems as much from dedication as from talent. We will read and discuss research showing that people who believe their abilities are fixed are less likely to take on challenges, put out effort, and cope well with setbacks than are people who believe that their abilities can be developed. We will see how people with the belief that abilities can be developed have an advantage in academics, business, sports, and personal relationships. We will use this research to address such questions as why so many very bright students stop working hard when the material becomes difficult, are afraid to make mistakes, can't take feedback without becoming defensive or discouraged, or have an inordinate need for praise and rewards.

How are these self-theories learned? To answer this question, we will examine work that shows the effects of praise on self-theories. We will also read about how self-theories can be changed to improve performance in school and in the workplace. The last weeks of the quarter will be spent presenting and discussing student projects. 


Meet the Instructor(s)

Carol Dweck

Carol S. Dweck is the Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology. Her research focuses on why people succeed and how to foster their success. More specifically, her work has demonstrated the role of mindsets and self-conceptions in motivation, and has illuminated how praise for intelligence can undermine motivation and learning. Prof. Dweck has also held professorships at Columbia University and Harvard, has lectured all over the world, and has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Her work has been prominently featured in many national publications, and she has appeared on Today, Good Morning America, and 20/20. Her most recent book is Mindset.