Self or self-esteem?

Johnnie Moore

Johnnie Moore

I’m Johnnie Moore, and I help people work better together

New York magazine has more coverage of Carol Dweck’s research (which I posted about earlier): How Not to Talk to Your Kids.

Here is one of the experiments reported. Kids at the same school are split into two groups.

The control group was taught study skills and the others got study skills and a special module on how intelligence is not innate. These students took turns reading aloud an essay on how the brain grows new neurons when challenged. They saw slides of the brain and acted out skits.

Those in the second group subsequently significantly outperformed their peers. Based on a 50 minute lesson. It’s part of the evidence that it’s smart not to label people as smart. Instead of treating intelligence as innate it’s better to value the level of engagement with a challenge. (I’m avoiding the use of the word effort here for reasons I noted in my earlier post.)

The magazine report goes on to challenge the evidence that high performance is correlated with high self-esteem. Indeed I found this via Andrew Sullivan, who frames this as a counterblast to “self-esteem hooey”.

Certainly, the research does challenge the value of indiscrimate praise to buld self-esteem. It seems to me that Dweck is suggesting it’s useful to separate our sense of self from the moment-by-moment success or failure we experience in the world.

Perhaps this is about the value of having a strong sense of self rather than a need to keep thinking “I’m great, I really am!” (self-esteem).

Bonus link: Here’s a podcast of Carol Dweck herself, in ITConversations.


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