Individual Differences of Intelligence: A Growth Mindset Compensation Hypothesis




Sanders, Jennifer

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Implicit theories of intelligence pertain to self-beliefs regarding the malleability of intelligence. Growth mindsets indicate more malleable beliefs about intelligence and have been suggested to play an influential role in academic achievement. Interest in the potential benefits of growth mindsets on life outcomes has led to global implementation of growth mindset education and interventions in educational settings. However, small effects of growth mindset on academic achievement have generated apprehension among researchers regarding the predictive power of growth mindset for academic achievement. The current study examined whether cognitive ability moderated the effects of growth mindsets. Predictions were based on Intelligence Compensation Theory (ICT), which assumes that high levels of conscientiousness (a correlate of growth mindset) compensate for low levels of cognitive ability. Following ICT, the analysis examined whether cognitive ability (based on SAT scores) moderated relations between growth mindset and academic achievement (based on college grade point average). No significant moderating effect of cognitive ability on mindset-achievement relations was found. However, a supplemental analysis revealed a significant moderating effect of cognitive ability on relations between conscientiousness and academic achievement, with stronger conscientiousness-achievement relations at higher ability levels. The findings are discussed in the context of ICT.


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Academic achievement, Conscientiousness, Growth mindset, Implicit theories, Intelligence