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49 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely a Fascinating Read - a review of "Self-theories"
This is a fascinating book. And while I'm just a mom with no particular background in psychological research, I found I had no difficulty either understanding the procedures of the research, or finding `everyday' applications for the profound information that Carol Dweck and associates provide.

In fact I wish I had read this book earlier because it has a great...
Published on December 30, 2005 by aa-Pam

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49 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely a Fascinating Read - a review of "Self-theories", December 30, 2005
This review is from: Self-theories: Their Role in Motivation, Personality, and Development (Essays in Social Psychology) (Paperback)
This is a fascinating book. And while I'm just a mom with no particular background in psychological research, I found I had no difficulty either understanding the procedures of the research, or finding `everyday' applications for the profound information that Carol Dweck and associates provide.

In fact I wish I had read this book earlier because it has a great deal to teach about how children devise concepts of themselves (self image) and how we might avoid the pitfalls of rearing a child who `gives up' too easily.

Five Stars. Very interesting. The other reviewers are right. This is a fast paced, good read that explains Carol Dweck's research into personality, motivation and development. As a mom of a 3 and 5 year old, I wish that I had come across this book earlier.

As Amazon's `Search inside this book' feature only lists page one of the Table of Contents, I've typed out the second page for your info.

Chapter 14 -- How Does It All Begin? Young Children's Theories About Goodness and Badness

Chapter 15 -- Kinds Of Praise And Criticism: The Origins Of Vulnerability

Chapter 16 -- Praising Intelligence: More Praise That Backfires

Chapter 17 -- Misconceptions About Self-Esteem and About How To Foster It

Chapter 18 -- Personality, Motivation, Development, and The Self: Theoretical Reflections

Chapter 19 -- Final Thoughts On Controversial Issues

References

Appendix: Measures Of Implicit Theories, Confidence, and Goals

Index
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42 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review of Self-Theories: Prof. Dweck's Three Key Distinctions, December 8, 2008
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This review is from: Self-theories: Their Role in Motivation, Personality, and Development (Essays in Social Psychology) (Paperback)
Carol Dweck's SELF-THEORIES is a work in the tradition of cognitive psychology. It is the academic counterpart to MINDSETS -- a later work intended for a more general readership, in which she applies her conceptual innovations to a broader range of domains: business, interpersonal relationships, etc. I've read both. In Self-Theories Dweck's target are academic or educational contexts in which she argues that the difference in academic performance can plausibly be explained by distinguishing between two conceptions of ability, the entity theory and the incremental theory. According to the **entity theory**, the abilities you possess are of a fixed quantity (for all time) and therefore unalterable; which is to say your abilities cannot really be altered or changed; they are not really responsive to EFFORT. On the **incremental view**, abilities you possess are not FIXED and ARE RESPONSIVE TO EFFORT over time.

Dweck's book yields genuine insights which are psychologically-actionable. One huge payoff, which Dweck points out frequently, is that in voluntarily adopting an incremental view of ability, you put yourself in a position to be FAR less vulnerable to self-blame, helplessness patterns, and self-despair in the event of failure, which can futher undermine your ability to execute your abilities. People of a more perfectionistic turn of mind have MUCH to gain by adopting a incremental spin on ability for the reasons just mentioned. "An ability is only as good as its execution."--Bandura.

Dwecke's an exceptionally lucid writer, and even her more academic work, "Self-Theories" is not written in academese but in language so clear and informal, you almost begin to wonder whether this is a professor in psychology at Columbia University. She's that good, at least I think so. (Bandura's prose is also clear, and conceptually rigorous, but his prose bears an elegant conciseness or compactness of insight, which would not incline me to describe as informal. But I digress. Dweck's work bears some relation to Bandura's.

Dweck draws three key distinctions:

a) between learning goals and performance goals,
b) between helplessness pattern and task-orientedness
c) between incremental and entity theory of ability

Dweck's claim is this: People who hold an entity view of their abilities TEND to also to be people who adopt performance goals over learning goals. A performance goals is one which is more concerned about "looking or appearing smart" than in taking steps to insure greater informedness at the cost of looking stupid or uninformed. Thus, adopting a performance goal is AT CROSS PURPOSES with a learning goal. Second, entitiy theorists, when persuaded of their own failure, have MUCH REASON TO DESPAIR over their failed performances because performance failure (for them) JUST IS a demonstration of the fact that they do not possess (and what's more NEVER can possess) the capacities required to succeed; for they believe that their abilities are FIXED structures inhering in them which are not alterable by effort.

Knowing this, you'd expect that, prior to performance, entity theorists should feel GREAT anxiety about their future performances and about the THREAT OF FAILURE and what it is DIAGNOSTIC OF. Failure MEANS a PERMANENT DIAGNOSIS for which there is NO COURT OF APPEAL. If you fail at math once, twice, then you're a math idiot. End of story. If you fail at a relationship (personal or professional); you're no good with people. End of story. The awareness of these potentially devastating prospects diverts attention, adversely affecting your skill-execution and performance. (In other words, you choke.) Consequently, this mindset steers you away from any activities that pose a risk to the sure-thing, even those activities that could improve your game. Instead of risking open failure and being (in your own eyes and those of others) PERMANENTLY DIAGNOSED as such, you confine yourself to a "narrow stable" (to lift a term from Adler) and de-select any environments that might challenge you.

Here's a personal example. When I was a community college student, I was terribly intimidated by logic and by critical thinking. Growing up as a young person who was lauded for his talents as a visual artist, I internalized this self-theory that artist or humanities types are NOT mathematical or particularly "logical." (Nevermind how some of the greatest visual artists were also geniuses in other fields such as engineering or inventing, which required a mathematical mind.) Anyway, I avoided logic like the plague. I didn't take the introductory courses at the community college level, so that by the time I was taking upper-division philosophy courses at UCLA, I was handicapped relative to my peers, most of whom had taken logic.

Just as you can't perform well academically in literature papers without a strong working understanding of English grammar, so also one cannot perform well in philosophy courses without a strong grasp of argument structures (validity/invalidity; soundness, etc.). Avoiding the logic course was a direct consequence of my being an **entity theorist** -- although I did not have the benefit of Prof. Dweck's work at this formative time in my life. [Beware, many of your Professors, parents, coaches may be, however well-meaning, operating under the FIXED MINDSET!] Had I understood how my fixed mindset was actually self-undermining, I would not have been ruled by the mistaken belief that an initial substandard performance in symbolic logic (or in any activity worth getting good at) diagnosed me, or my cerebrum, permanently without a "logic" gene. (In the parlance of Bill and Ted -- "Whoa.") Since I knew (at the get-go) that I wanted to be a Philosophy Prof, that conclusion would have been, well, fairly devastating to me. But -- and this is key -- the conclusion that a less-than-spectacular performance diagnoses you with low ability is an inference that ONLY those in the FIXED mindset draw. It is not a conclusion that one MUST draw from one's substandard performances. That 'must' has a life only **in** the fixed mindset.

According to Prof. Dweck, the situation is very much otherwise for those people who hold an incremental theory about ability. It really is, phenomenologically speaking, like being in another world, one in which what counts as **you** (in your own eyes, which is what matters) is that you no longer have this invisible ceiling of ability, one that affects how you compare yourself with other performers and what life-prospects you think are open to you. You are enlarged. The issue of the SIZE of your ability doesn't get REFUTED; it just ceases to have any functional relevance. The anxiety over not having 'the right stuff' gets REPLACED by ANTICIPATION. Of what? In a word, success. And this frees you up to start thinking like this:

THE GROWTH MINDSET: THE VIEW FROM INSIDE
You think: "So, since I'm not inherently an idiot and since I can grow my abilities with guided effort (with training of other experts, taking the relevant preparatory courses, etc.), then the ONLY thing I need to think about is how, in terms of the logistics of an action plan, how am I going to make this happen."

Notice that the concern isn't 'whether' but HOW I am going to succeed, and this key shift in your psychology comes with territory when you shift from the FIXED to the GROWTH mindset. You aren't given tool to fight anxiety over failure; no, that anxeity is replaced by a totally different attitude, namely, real anticipation of success. And it is within this context that failure is re-conceptualized, assigned at TOTALLY DIFFERENT MEANING. That failure is NOT YOUR ENEMY. IT can help you determine where you need to improve your game. Think of an instrument panel of a DC-10, or your Honda Hatchback's oil light. Failure merely provides you with data for making the necessary adjustments in effort by designating where to direct it!

More about Dweck's research. For incremental theorists, failure is not diagnostic of something -- a wanted capability to produce desired effects in a cared-about domain of human life - which they can't EVER possess; no, failure doesn't MEAN (for them) that whatever it is in people taht allows them to produce exceptional EFFECTS in the world, in any cared-about domain of performance -- that thing, call it an "ability" -- is something whose possess and "size" or quantiy or magnitude is something over which you can exercise some control over and the way you can do this is through EFFORT. The entity theorist does not see personal exertion as diagnostic of LOW ability; she sees it as the MEANS to ACQUIRE greater capabilities, a means to enhance her personal causation. By contrast, the entity theorist views exertion as diagnistic of Low ability; like a doctor who sees a patient and says "Those spots mean measles," the entity theorist views exceptional effort to mean "low ability."

APPENDIX: DWECK AND BANDURA COMPARED
Bandura's view (in SE) is, similar to Dwecks, in that he thinks that it is functionally optimal to view abilities as developmentally responsive to effort. Abilities ARE things one possesses - powers one can personally exericise to produce desired effects in the environment - but for learners it is self-limiting to think of abilities as innate or in-born capabilities rather than as things which can be obtained though "acquireable means" and guided mastery. [For those interested in a CONCEPTUAL ANALYSIS OF POWER, you see Peter Moriss's **Power: A Philosophical Analysis.**] Bandura's general approach to learning seems to be that complex or difficult performances can be decomposed into simpler tasks; learners can learn and gain competence at the simpler tasks (increasing perceived self-efficacy incrementally as they go), then, once actually in possesion of those simpler skills, move on to tackle more difficult tasks, and so on until they actually possess the skills to perform the complex performances. This is what goes on in med schools, trade schools, most all graduate schools.

On B's view, abilities are entities you possess, but the trick is to incrementalize your ACQUISITION OF THEM, using your skills acquired at lower and medium levels to boot youself up to higher levels. But of course, this means your conception of your ability has to be adequate to get you to the highest level of performance, or you have to locate the means and strategies which will elevate your performances to higher levels, and once these are identified you have to acquire them. And acquiring competency in the simpler tasks, lower skills, are, so far as I can tell from SE, the means to acquiring the skills to perform at higher levels; which is as much to say they are the means to acquiring greater abilities.
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scary title, great book!, August 13, 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Self-theories: Their Role in Motivation, Personality, and Development (Essays in Social Psychology) (Paperback)
I was intimidated by the title of this book, and was afraid it was going to be highly academic. However, the book is completely accessible and fascinating. Dr. Dweck describes her remarkable studies on motivation and achievement, and shows that a fixed view of intelligence (meaning: either you're born smart or you're not) sells us short. Her work has enormous implications for both childrearing and teaching. This book should be required reading for all parents and teachers.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 100 GIGA-Watt Light-Bulb, September 29, 2008
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James D. Nichol (Upper Midwest, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Self-theories: Their Role in Motivation, Personality, and Development (Essays in Social Psychology) (Paperback)
From my perspective, "Self-Theories," is incredible. Fascinating, absolutely fascinating! I guarantee that if you are not familiar with Dr Carol Dweck's work you will have the equivalent of an epiphany when you read this. It is hard to believe that these theories have escaped popular culture and remained hidden.

Carol Dweck would deny it, but she is a genius. The proof of her theories are borne out in these pages. The light-bulb part is that when you read them; it's a real "Ah-Ha!" moment. It is something that we see glimpses of in ourselves but precious few have truly understood. Things become clearer and clearer with each chapter.

The crux of it is that there are people, children and adults, which have an attitude of mastery or growth mindset. These people shrug off failures, mistakes and difficulty with subjects and work at incremental growth. They develop their abilities. The rest of us, have this belief in their abilities and an attitude that if you are gifted then things will come naturally. These people have a tendency to dislike effort, struggles and incremental growth because they see it as a weakness. For the growth mindset people they see the big picture and develop new strategies to overcome.

It is similar to the two different schools of economic theory; either you believe that economies are STATIC and there is only so much wealth to go around and so legislate to equalize wealth; or you believe economies are DYNAMIC and grow, therefore increasing wealth through successful strategies and encourage risk and experimentation. The static would be equivalent to ability or scarcity mindset and the dynamic would be equivalent to the mastery or growth mindset.

The thing is, when you look at raising children we all want them to succeed at whatever they try. Parents look for any sign that their child might be gifted and have some inborn ability that shines above their peers. But this is folly, because they praise the exact opposite of what they should. They praise the child's ability and not their effort. From this the child gets the message that, "I am good at this without effort, and people like me for it." The problem arises when it is time to move on from their juvenile abilities and grow stronger and more able, but they hold back. They hold back because they don't want to destroy their image of a "natural" they don't want to loose the praise they once had. This turns out to be a death spiral for any real gifts they might have had. Too bad too, all it takes is a slight change of the phrases used with young people.

Parents, teacher and coaches alike should read and re-read this work. It is the clinical stuff but in my opinion it is better than Mindset. Mindset is also excellent stuff but is more anecdotal and less about the cases and discovery in the studies.
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A PENETRATING EXAMINATION OF THE SELF...RECOMMENDED., January 10, 2000
The author shows how people develop beliefs about themselves (self-theories) and how these create their psychological world, shaping how they think, feel, and act. Her focus is on motivation, personality, the self, and development. The text, describes original research findings and conclusions, It reveals why, at times, people work well, and at other times they are self-defeating. Dweck examines adaptive and maladaptive cognitive motivational patterns and shows: how these patterns originate in people's self-theories; their consequences for the person's achievement, social relationships and emotional well-being; and consequences for society, from issues of human potential to stereotyping and intergroup reactions.
Dweck's conclusions explore the implications for the concept of self-esteem, suggesting a rethinking of its role in motivation, and the conditions that foster it. A penetrating analysis of complex subjects. Reviewed by Gerry Stern and Yvette Borcia, founders, Stern & Associates and HR Knowledge Network, authors of Stern's Sourcefinder: The Master Directory to HR and Business Management Information & Resources, Stern's CyberSpace SourceFinder, and Stern's Compensation and Benefits.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and perhaps useful, January 28, 2014
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The information contained here is a more scholarly treatment than in her popular press book Mindset. As a parent and a college professor, it has changed the way I look at both success and failure in my children and my students. I am convinced this is a a helpful way to understand why talented kids sometimes go into an academic death spiral. I'm not as convinced that the "cure" is going to be a simple and easy process. "Entity theorists" are probably made, not born - but by the time I see them professionally this has become a firmly habituated worldview that took years to build. It would similarly take years of constant outside intervention to deconstruct. I rarely work with students that closely and for that long, Counseling professionals can and will, though, if people like me make the right referrals.

My own kids, on the other hand... I have already seen one of my daughters gradually shifting from the entity theory to the growth theory. That has taken months of fairly steady conversations about how success comes mostly from efforts (controllable) rather than talents (uncontrollable). At least in her unprompted statements, I'm seeing progress. She's a lot more likely now to say, "I should practice violin more" rather than "I'm no good at violin." The understanding is there, even if the actual behavior is still lagging a bit. :-)
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reader-friendly, July 30, 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Self-theories: Their Role in Motivation, Personality, and Development (Essays in Social Psychology) (Paperback)
Yes I would definitely say it is reader friendly. Why? I sat and read through and what kept me reading it to end was that it is comprehensible. THere was nothing new in the sense that her subjects were everyday people - students, there were no those statistics that hardly made a sense to a layman like me, it was thought provoking - made me ponder over what really went wrong with my kid and myself, gave me some idea on how to tackle future problems concerning my kid's attitude towards schoolwork, and most of all it was presented in a captivating manner. It's like reading a storybook. I didn't have to put on a thinking cap to make myself intelligent to understand her message.I definitely would recommend to my friends who are housewives.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reader-friendly, July 30, 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Self-theories: Their Role in Motivation, Personality, and Development (Essays in Social Psychology) (Paperback)
Yes I would definitely say it is reader friendly. Why? I sat and read through and what kept me reading it to end was that it is comprehensible. THere was nothing new in the sense that her subjects were everyday people - students, there were no those statistics that hardly made a sense to a layman like me, it was thought provoking - made me ponder over what really went wrong with my kid and myself, gave me some idea on how to tackle future problems concerning my kid's attitude towards schoolwork, and most of all it was presented in a captivating manner. It's like reading a storybook. I didn't have to put on a thinking cap to make myself intelligent to understand her message.I definitely would recommend to my friends who are housewives.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Really important book, March 13, 2013
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This review is from: Self-theories: Their Role in Motivation, Personality, and Development (Essays in Social Psychology) (Paperback)
Carol Dweck's work speaks to me on several levels: I recognize myself, and I recognize a number of my students. I was super engaged in reading Self Theories for about 2/3 of the book, but honestly, it began to feel quite repetitive. That's because she very systematically (and responsibly) extends the application of the core concept in micro-steps - trying not to assume. After all, it is a compilation of research findings that build on each other. So it's good science, just not totally scintillating after awhile....even though the directions she takes her research are fascinating.

All that said, her thoughts and discoveries have really stayed with me. I've begun to orient my own inquiry into any number of domains with ithis basic question: Are we (am I) operating as if we're fixed things or works in progress? And the addendum is, of course, What is a human being? Huge question; powerful inquiry!

I would love to have heard more about INTERVENTIONS for older learners (college students/adults) who have adopted fixed and unmalleable identities, but even with a few flaws, this is a book that all educators should read!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Mindset Kinda Sucked, May 29, 2014
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k black (emerald hills ca) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Self-theories: Their Role in Motivation, Personality, and Development (Essays in Social Psychology) (Paperback)
This is better, not as pop-psychology oriented as Mindset. Her writing is incredibly clear, other studies are meticulously cited. I tossed Mindset away, embarrassed that I'd purchased it because it was had all the science stripped from it. Read this one instead. Fascinating theories regarding motivation are presented with ample research to support them.
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