The belief that intelligence is malleable has important consequences for achievement and motivation (Blackwell et al. Child Development, 78, 246-263. 2007; Dweck, 1999; Robins & Pals, Self and Identity, 1,313-336, 2002). However, believing that it is possible to improve intelligence does not necessarily mean students are always confident they can improve their own. The current study presents a revised “self-theory” measure of the implicit theories of intelligence scale, which assess students’ beliefs about their ability to mold their own intelligence in contrast to their beliefs about the malleability of intelligence in general. In testing with 643 Australian high school students (62 % female) ranging from 15 to 19 years of age (M = 16.6, standard deviation (SD) = 1.01), the belief that intelligence is “fixed” was predictive of lower endorsement of achievement goals, greater helplessness attributions, and poorer self-reported academic grades. Fixed “entity” beliefs were also predictive of academic self-handicapping, truancy, and disengagement. On all of these measures, the new self-theory scale uniquely explained greater outcome variance. These results indicate that students’ implicit beliefs—particularly about their own intelligence—may have important implications for their motivation, engagement, and performance in school.
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Our sample of schools included Radford, Merici, Melba Copland, Canberra College, and Lake Ginninderra. Rankings for these schools based on the ATAR can be found at: www.bettereducation.com.au/results/ACT/2010/ACT.aspx.
In the Australian Capital Territory, grades in both public and private schools are distributed independent of the student’s relative performance in their class. Grade inflation (by school) is controlled for using the ACT Scaling Test, which is administered to students in all schools and is used to rank schools for calculating students’ ATAR. Unfortunately, students’ grades and scores on national scaling exams are not available for research purposes hence the need for self-report measures in most educational research of this kind within Australia.
To examine construct validity of this four-item measure, we conducted a principal component factor analysis on achievement items. Results yielded a strong single-factor solution (eigenvalue = 3.11) accounting for 78 % of the overall variance. The second, third, and fourth factors had eigenvalues <.47. All item loadings for the single factor solution were >.86, and communalities for all items were >.75. The Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin measure of sampling adequacy was also .79 (above the commonly recommended value of .6), and Bartlett’s test of sphericity was significant (χ 2 (6) = .1753.73, p < .001).
Further evidence that the general and self-theory measures are two distinct constructs comes from a second CFA conducted using all implicit theory scale items. We correlated error terms between matching general and self-theory scale items while comparing a single factor model (with all 16 items loading on a single factor) with a two-factor solution in which scale items loaded on their corresponding general and self-theory factors. The two-factor solution (χ 2 = 1860.7**, GFI = .69, AGFI = .55, CFI = .78, RMSEA = 17, PGFI = .48) fits the data better than the single-factor model (χ 2 = 2,279.7**, GFI = .64, AGFI = .49, CFI = .73, RMSEA = 19, PGFI = .45), further indicating that the general and self-theory measures are assessing independent (yet related) constructs.
Because implicit theory scales have been used in different ways in the research literature, we replicated our analyses using the two distinct subscales for incremental and entity beliefs separately.
In our supplementary analysis with the separate subscales, entity beliefs were negatively associated with performance approach; performance avoidance and mastery goals and incremental beliefs were positively associated with all three goals constructs.
In a second set of analyses, we repeated the hierarchical regression in the reverse order entering the self-theory scale in the first step and the general theory scale in the second. The general scale failed to explain unique variance on any of the dependent variables when controlling for “self-theories.” The only exception was performance approach goals, where the general scale contributed 1 % of unique variance (β = .17, R 2 = .02, R 2change = .01).
While the general entity theory of intelligence scale was on its own, not a significant predictor of performance-approach goals, it became so when the self-theory scale was entered into the equation. This may indicate the existence of suppression of the former by shared variance with the latter.
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We would like to thank Carol S. Dweck for her assistance and guidance in the preparation of this manuscript.
Kri sta De Castella. The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia; Stanford University, Stanford, USA. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Current themes of research:
Social Psychology. Clinical Psychology. Affective Science. Implicit theories of intelligence and emotion. Self-fulfilling prophecies and maladaptive beliefs. Fear of failure and self-handicapping. Social anxiety. Mindfulness based interventions.
Most relevant publications in the field of Psychology of Education:
De Castella, K., Goldin, P., Jazaieri, H., Ziv, M., Dweck, C. S., & Gross, J. (2014). Emotion beliefs and cognitive behavioural therapy for social anxiety disorder. Cognitive Behavior Therapy, 1–14. doi:10.1080/16506073.2014.974665.
De Castella, K., Goldin, P., Jazaieri, H., Ziv, M., & Gross, J. (2014). Emotion beliefs in social anxiety disorder: Associations with stress, anxiety, and well-being. Australian Journal of Psychology 66, 139–148.
De Castella, K., Goldin, P., Jazaieri, H., Ziv, M., Dweck, C. S., & Gross, J. (2013). Beliefs about emotion: Links to emotion regulation, well-being, and psychological distress. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 6(35), 497–505.
De Castella, K., Byrne, D. & Covington, M. (2013). Unmotivated or motivated to fail? A cross-cultural study of achievement motivation, fear of failure and student disengagement. Journal of Educational Psychology, 105(3), 861–880.
Donald Byrne. The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia
Current themes of research:
Health, Clinical and Counseling Psychology. Social and Community Psychology. Biological Psychology (Neuropsychology, Psychopharmacology, Physiological Psychology). Psychological Methodology (Design and Analysis). Industrial and Organizational Psychology.
Most relevant publications in the field of Psychology of Education:
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Mazanov, J., & Byrne, D. (2006a). An evaluation of the stability of perceptions and frequency of adolescent risk-taking over time and across samples. Personality and Individual Differences, 40, 725–735.
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Lipnicki, D., & Byrne, D. (2005). Thinking on your back: Solving anagrams faster when supine than when standing. Cognitive Brain Research, 24, 719–722.
Byrne, D., & Mazanov, J. (2005). Prevention of adolescent smoking: A prospective test of three models of intervention. Journal of Substance Use, 10(6), 363–374.
Byrne, D., & Mazanov, J. (2003). Adolescent stress and future smoking behaviour A prospective investigation. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 54(3), 313–321.
Barresi, M., Shadbolt, B., Byrne, D., et al. (2003). The development of the Canberra symptom scorecard: a tool to monitor the physical symptoms of patients with advanced tumours. BMC Cancer, 3(32), 1–9.
Mazanov, J., & Byrne, D. (2002). A comparision of predictors of the adolescent intention to smoke with adolescent current smoking using discriminant function analysis. British Journal of Health Psychology, 7(2), 185–201.
Byrne, D., & Mazanov, J. (2002). Sources of stress in Australian adolescents: factor structure and stability over time. Stress and Health, 18, 185–192.
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De Castella, K., Byrne, D. My intelligence may be more malleable than yours: the revised implicit theories of intelligence (self-theory) scale is a better predictor of achievement, motivation, and student disengagement. Eur J Psychol Educ 30, 245–267 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10212-015-0244-y
- Implicit theories