Do Rewards Reinforce the Growth Mindset?: Joint Effects of the Growth Mindset and Incentive Schemes in a Field Intervention

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Abstract

The current study draws on the motivational model of achievement which has been guiding research on the growth mindset intervention (Dweck & Leggett, 1988) and examines how this intervention interacts with incentive systems to differentially influence performance for high- and low-achieving students in Indian schools that serve low-SES communities. Although, as expected, the growth mindset intervention did interact with incentive systems and prior achievement to influence subsequent academic performance, the existing growth mindset framework cannot fully account for the observed effects. Specifically, we found that the growth mindset intervention did facilitate performance through persistence, but only when the incentive system imparted individuals with a sense of autonomy. Such a facilitation effect was only found among those students who had high prior achievement, but not among those who had underperformed. When the incentive did not impart a sense of autonomy, the growth mindset intervention undermined the performance of those who had high initial achievement. To reconcile these discrepancies and to advance understanding of the impacts of psychological interventions on achievement outcomes, we discuss how the existing theory can be extended and integrated with an identity-based motivation framework (Oyserman & Destin, 2010). We also discuss the implications of our work for future research and practice.

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