Michigan State psychology professor Jason Moser purposefully gave a group of individuals an exam that was easy to screw up. He asked that they identify the middle letter in a string of letters which were sometimes the same and sometimes different (MMMMM or MMNMM). After making a mistake, participants were asked about their attitudes toward intelligence and whether they thought it was a fixed characteristic or if people could become more intelligent by correcting their errors.
What’s the Big Idea?
Individuals who thought of intelligence as a process rather than a fixed state showed brain activity which scientists correlated with a more positive attitude toward mistakes. “People who are open to improving are hardwired with an adaptive brain reaction to errors. They’re more mindful of and eager to correct their mistakes.” Perhaps by giving these tests, schools and companies can learn to improve achievement by discovering who is too pessimistic about their brain’s own abilities.