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Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2006 Sep;1(2):75-86.

Why do beliefs about intelligence influence learning success? A social cognitive neuroscience model.

Author information

1
Psychology Department, Columbia University, USA. mangels@psych.columbia.edu

Abstract

Students' beliefs and goals can powerfully influence their learning success. Those who believe intelligence is a fixed entity (entity theorists) tend to emphasize 'performance goals,' leaving them vulnerable to negative feedback and likely to disengage from challenging learning opportunities. In contrast, students who believe intelligence is malleable (incremental theorists) tend to emphasize 'learning goals' and rebound better from occasional failures. Guided by cognitive neuroscience models of top-down, goal-directed behavior, we use event-related potentials (ERPs) to understand how these beliefs influence attention to information associated with successful error correction. Focusing on waveforms associated with conflict detection and error correction in a test of general knowledge, we found evidence indicating that entity theorists oriented differently toward negative performance feedback, as indicated by an enhanced anterior frontal P3 that was also positively correlated with concerns about proving ability relative to others. Yet, following negative feedback, entity theorists demonstrated less sustained memory-related activity (left temporal negativity) to corrective information, suggesting reduced effortful conceptual encoding of this material-a strategic approach that may have contributed to their reduced error correction on a subsequent surprise retest. These results suggest that beliefs can influence learning success through top-down biasing of attention and conceptual processing toward goal-congruent information.

PMID:
17392928
PMCID:
PMC1838571
DOI:
10.1093/scan/nsl013
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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