When adults praise effort, rather than intelligence, children are given control over their academic success. This approach encourages kids to persist when faced with difficult questions, take risks during problem solving, and–over time, develop personal autonomy. All of which, are key characteristics for a competitive, 21st century work force.
In follow-up interviews, Dweck discovered that those who think that innate intelligence is the key to success begin to discount the importance of effort. I am smart, the kids’ reasoning goes; I don’t need to put out effort. Expending effort becomes stigmatized—it’s public proof that you can’t cut it on your natural gifts.
Repeating her experiments, Dweck found this effect of praise on performance held true for students of every socioeconomic class. It hit both boys and girls—the very brightest girls especially (they collapsed the most following failure). Even preschoolers weren’t immune to the inverse power of praise.