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Culture & Religion

How You Think About Intelligence Could Make You Smarter

People who think intelligence is malleable are more likely to learn from their mistakes, indicates new research. Those who think intelligence is a fixed quality learn less. 

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How we think about intelligence may affect how intelligent we become, according to new research from Michigan State University. In an experiment, scientists asked individuals to complete a computer task in which it was very easy to make an error. The experiment observed that the brain releases two electrical pulses after a mistake is made, the first pulse indicating recognition of a mistake, the second indicating a desire to fix the mistake. Researchers then asked each person if they thought intelligence was given to growth or if it was a fixed commodity. 

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Individuals who looked at intelligence as something that is pliable and can be increased by life experience also demonstrated a stronger second electrical pulse to making a error, indicating that they were more determined to learn from their mistake. “Setbacks are opportunities to gain infor­mation and learn for the next time, so pay attention to what went wrong and get the information you need to improve,” said lead author Jason Moser, a clinical psychologist at Michigan State.

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