Social Psychology of Education

, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 241–256 | Cite as

Longitudinal changes in college math students’ implicit theories of intelligence

  • Rebecca L. Shively
  • Carey S. Ryan


This study examined changes over time in implicit theories of intelligence and their relationships to help-seeking and academic performance. College algebra students completed questionnaires during the second week of classes and 2 weeks before the end of the semester (ns = 159 and 145, respectively; 61 students completed questionnaires at both waves). The questionnaires assessed entity and incremental implicit theories of general and math intelligence (beginning and end of semester) and help-seeking (end of semester). Results indicated that students had more incremental views of general than math intelligence. Further, their views became less incremental over the course of the semester; however, this decrease was greater for math than for general intelligence. Participants who exhibited a stronger incremental theory of general intelligence at the beginning of the semester subsequently reported greater help-seeking during the semester. Finally, students who had more entitative views of math intelligence earned lower course grades.


Implicit theories of intelligence Math intelligence Helpseeking Math education 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Ahmavaara A., Houston D. M. (2007) The effects of selective schooling and self-concept on adolescents’ academic aspiration: An examination of Dweck’s self-theory. British Journal of Educational Psychology 77: 613–632. doi: 10.1348/000709906X120132 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Augustine, N. R. (2005). Rising above the gathering storm: Energizing and employing America for a brighter economic future. Retrieved from
  3. Baumeister R. F., Campbell J. D., Krueger J. L., Vohs K. D. (2003) Does high self-esteem cause better performance, interpersonal success, happiness or healthier lifestyles?. Psychological Science in the Public Interest 4: 1–44. doi: 10.1111/1529-1006.01431 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Blackwell L. S., Trzesniewski K., Dweck C. S. (2007) Implicit theories of intelligence predict achievement across an adolescent transition: A longitudinal study and an intervention. Child Development 78: 246–263. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2007.00995.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Burns K. C., Isbell L. M. (2007) Promoting malleability is not one size fits all: Priming implicit theories of intelligence as a function of self-theories. Self and Identity 6: 51–63. doi: 10.1080/15298860600823864 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Ceci, S. J., Williams, W. M. (Eds.) (2007) Why aren’t there more women in science? Top researchers debate the evidence. American Psychological Association, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  7. Chiu C., Dweck C. S., Tong J. Y., Fu J. H. (1997) Implicit theories and conceptions of morality. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 73: 923–940. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.73.5.923 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chiu C., Hong Y., Dweck C. S. (1997) Lay dispositionism and implicit theories of personality. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 73: 19–30. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.73.1.19 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dutton K. A., Brown J. D. (1997) Global self-esteem and specific self-views as determinants of people’s reactions to success and failure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 73: 139–148. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.73.1.139 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dweck C. S. (1999) Self-theories: Their role in motivation, personality, and development. Psychology Press, Philadelphia, PAGoogle Scholar
  11. Dweck C. S. (2006) Is math a gift? Beliefs that put females at risk. In: Ceci S. J., Williams W. M. (Eds.) Why aren’t more women in science? Top researchers debate the evidence. American Psychological Association, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  12. Dweck C. S., Hong Y., Chiu C. (1993) Implicit theories: Individual differences in the likelihood and meaning of dispositional inference. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 19: 644–656. doi: 10.1177/0146167293195015 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dweck C. S., Leggett E. L. (1988) A social-cognitive approach to motivation and personality. Psychological Review 95: 256–273. doi: 10.1037//0033-295X.95.2.256 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dweck C. S., & Molden D. C. (2005). Self-theories: Their impact on competence motivation and acquisition. In: Elliot A., & Dweck C. S. Handbook of competence and motivation. (pp 122–140) New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  15. Erdley C., Loomis C., Cain K., Dumas-Hines F., Dweck C. S. (1997) The relations among children’s social goals, implicit personality theories and response to social failure. Developmental Psychology 33: 263–272. doi: 10.1037//0012-1649.33.2.263 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Grant H., Dweck C. S. (2003) Clarifying achievement goals and their impact. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 85: 541–553. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.85.3.541 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hill C., Corbett C., St. Rose A. (2010) Why so few? Women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. AAUW, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  18. Hong Y. Y., Chiu C., Dweck C. S. (1995) Implicit theories of intelligence: Reconsidering the role of confidence in achievement motivation. In: Kernis M. (Ed.) Efficacy, agency, and self-esteem. Plenum, New York, pp 197–216Google Scholar
  19. Hong Y., Chiu C., Dweck C. S., Lin D. M. S., Wan W. (1999) Implicit theories, attributions, and coping: A meaning system approach. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 77: 588–599. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.77.3.588 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. H. R. 2272–110th Congress: America COMPETES Act. (2007). In (database of federal legislation). Retrieved from
  21. H. R. 5116–111th Congress: America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010. (2010). In (database of federal legislation). Retrieved from
  22. Hyde J. S., Lindberg S. M., Linn M. C., Ellis A. B., Williams C. C. (2008) Gender similarities characterize math performance. Science 312: 494–495. doi: 10.1126/science.1160364 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. King, R. B., McInerney, D. M., & Watkins, D. A. (2012). How you think about your intelligence determines how you feel in school: The role of theories of intelligence on academic emotions. Learning and Individual Differences. doi: 10.1016/j.lindif.2012.04.005.
  24. Midgley C., Arunkumar R., Urdan T. C. (1996) “If I don’t do well tomorrow, there’s a reason:” Predictors of adolescents’ use of academic self-handicapping strategies. Journal of Educational Psychology 88: 423–434. doi: 10.1037//0022-0663.88.3.423 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Miller C. H., Burgoon J. K., Hall J. R. (2007) The effects of implicit theories of moral character on affective reactions to moral transgressions. Social Cognition 25: 819–832. doi: 10.1521/soco.2007.25.6.819 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Plaks J. E., Dweck C. S., Grant H. (2005) Violations of implicit theories and the sense of prediction and control: Implications for motivated person perception. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 88: 245–262. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.93.4.667 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Rattan, A., Savani, K., Naidu, N. V. R., & Dweck, C. S. (2012). Can everyone become highly intelligent? Cultural differences in and societal consequences of beliefs about the universal potential for intelligence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. doi: 10.1037/a0029263.
  28. Renaud J., McConnell A. (2007) Wanting to be better but thinking you can’t: Implicit theories of personality moderate the impact of self-discrepancies on self-esteem. Self and Identity 6: 41–50. doi: 10.1080/15298860600764597 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Rhodewalt F. (1994) Conceptions of ability, achievement goals, and individual differences in self-handicapping behavior: On the application of implicit theories. Journal of Personality 62: 67–85. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-6494.1994.tb00795.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Robins R. W., Pals J. L. (2002) Implicit self-theories in the academic domain: Implications for goal orientation, attributions, affect, and self-esteem change. Self and Identity 1: 313–336. doi: 10.1080/15298860290106805 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Seymour E., Hewitt N. M. (1997) Talking about leaving: Why undergraduates leave the sciences. Westview Press, Boulder, COGoogle Scholar
  32. Shih S. (2011) Perfectionism, implicit theories of intelligence, and Taiwanese eight-grade students’ academic engagement. The Journal of Educational Research 104: 131–142. doi: 10.1080/00220670903570368 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Valian V. (2006) Women at the top in science-and elsewhere. In: Ceci S.J., Williams W. M. (Eds.) Why aren’t more women in science? Top researchers debate the evidence. American Psychological Association, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Nebraska at OmahaOmahaUSA

Personalised recommendations