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Growth mindset study seeks to expand to area high schools

Joyce Ehrlinger
Joyce Ehrlinger

Believing in your ability to learn can make you smarter. This is the idea Joyce Ehrlinger, assistant professor of psychology at Washington State University, is bringing to high school classrooms in the Inland Northwest.

For the last year, Ehrlinger and a team of researchers have worked with math students at Pullman and Moscow high schools to develop a growth mindset, the belief that the ability to learn is not fixed by your IQ but can be developed through dedication and hard work. She is currently looking to expand the study to high schools in Spokane, the Tri-Cities and elsewhere in the region.

“Say you fail a math test. For someone who thinks math is an ability you either have or don’t have, this negative feedback makes them pull away from math completely,” Ehrlinger said. “For someone with a growth mindset, failing a test is not a complete overarching statement about them as a person and their abilities; rather, it gives them specific information about where they can improve.”

Ehrlinger’s post-doctoral work with Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck provided conclusive evidence a growth mindset ultimately leads to higher grades, higher SAT scores and greater confidence to tackle difficult subjects. However, psychologists do not have a strong understanding of why or how the growth mindset helps overall performance.

Ehrlinger’s hope is to fix this with her current study.

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Women make great leaders – now they just need to start believing it

Joyce Ehrlinger
Joyce Ehrlinger
The fact that women are vastly under-represented in high-level leadership positions is well known, but the exact reason for it is still the subject of much debate.

Research has long shown that men are more self-assured in general, and often overestimate their abilities and potential, while women are far more prone to underestimate and second-guess themselves.

Research by WSU psychologist Joyce Ehrlinger and Cornell psychologist David Dunning also shows that women tend to rate themselves more negatively.

In the study, male and female college students were given a quiz on scientific reasoning, after which they were asked to assess how many questions they thought they had gotten right. On average, the male students thought they had gotten 7.1 answers right, while the female students thought they had answered only 5.8 correctly.

In reality, though, the average for male and female students was almost exactly the same – 7.5 correct answers for the female students and 7.9 for the male students.

This negative self-perception can prevent women from taking on new challenges or opportunities.

Find out more about the gender gap in leadership assessment