Ivan's Reviews > Self-Theories: Their Role in Motivation, Personality, and Development

Self-Theories by Carol S. Dweck
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Sep 15, 10

bookshelves: psychology
Read from July 23 to September 15, 2010

This book is not a self-help book. It is tedious to read, repetitive, repetitive, repetitive...BUT

It argues something of great importance - that the self-theories each of us has constructed (consciously or unconsciously) regarding our intelligence, social savviness, personality etc. initiate and control the thought patterns that can either go into fortitude or learned helplessness along the way of personal development and maturing.

To illustrate this, the author is slowly approaching (starting on the intelligence domain and expanding upon the findings there onto the other ones) the distinction between two theories: entity and incremental theory (similar to the nature vs. nurture debate)

People employing the former regard their intelligence(social savviness, personality traits) as fixed. "You either have it or you don't." or "I am just not good at this". It's easy to operate in this theory - things are just as they are. Except when they are not :) Facing a conflict - thinking highly of yourself until a setback which clearly shows you don't have it, can trigger a lot of negative emotions which can grow into a life-long tendency of challenges avoidance for the sake of saving face,(you cannot be smart and fail, right?). So why bother trying...you have nothing to gain: You are either reaffirming something you already believe to be true or you are putting your self-worth at risk. No upside, therefore please no challenges, no learning, no growth. It is sad but true for so many people. Just think a sec about it, I am pretty convinced you can come up with at least a handful of friends who fall into this category.

On the other hand, in the incremental theory framework it's all about growth. Looking dumb is not the end of the world. Learning new things, developing new abilities is what it is all about. Setbacks are just feedback that help you better cope on the way and does not undermine you as an individual, just your current performance. Having much less to lose, it is natural that people operating in this framework are more willing to take risks, face new challenges, and cope with adversity (which is not a label of inadequacy here) much more effectively.

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