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Excerpt 2 from the NeuroLeadership Institute's "The Beliefs Organizations Should Hold"

This fascinating transcribed excerpt from "The Beliefs Organizations Should Hold" with Carol Dweck and Janet Van Huysse recounts a research experiment where kids were either told how intelligent they were or how hard they worked.  Guess which ones performed better in the end?

I want to tell you about some studies we did that show how tuned in kids are.  In one study with adults, we started giving a math lesson to them that was full of genius talk, the geniuses who invented that, who discovered that theorem. And to other adults, we talked genius but in a different way.  We talked about people who have fallen in love with math, and just worked at it passionately and eventually discovered these theorems.  The genius talk, the boring genius talk --  boy, did that create a fixed mindset. And when we gave some hard problems to the people, they really were not resilient because they thought, “Oh, there are a few people – geniuses -- who are good at this; then there’s the rest of us”.  But, in passion… if being a math person is about passion, they remained persistent and resilient. 

But probably the most shocking [element] of our research has been about the impact of praise on mindsets.  We undertook this at the height of the self-esteem movement when the gurus were telling us to praise everyone lavishly and constantly.  So we took, in this study with adolescents -- we did it with hundreds of kids all over the country, and we brought them one at a time to a room in their school. We gave them ten problems from a non-verbal IQ test, and they did pretty well.  We made sure they did pretty well.  And then we gave them one sentence of praise.  A third of them were praised for their intelligence:  “WOW!  You must be smart at this!”.   A third were praised for the process they engaged in.  It could be their strategy, their focus, their effort, in this case, effort: “WOW!  You must have worked really hard!”.  So we focused on the process that brought about their success.  And then a third group, just for purposes of comparison:   “WOW!  That’s really good”.  What happened?  First of all, one sentence of praise put them into different mindsets.  Just saying “You’re really smart” says “I value smarts. I value genius”. This is a culture of genius, and whoa, into a fixed mindset they went.  But the most shocking thing to us was that the one sentence of intelligence praise made students into non-learners.   We then gave them that choice: “What do you want to do now -- something in your comfort zone or something really hard you could learn from?”,  the majority of people praised for intelligence, (and it’s been done with adults, too) chose something in their comfort zone.  They did not want to risk their newly minted gifted label. However, the overwhelming majority of those praised for their process in two of our studies, over 90% chose a hard task that they could profit from, learn something from.  What happened to their performance?  We gave everyone a very difficult set of problems, and then we looked at their performance on somewhat easier problems following that.   Those praised for intelligence crashed after the hard problems.  Their performance on this IQ test really suffered.  But those praised for process had kept on working hard and being engaged in the hard problems, so when they became easier again, their performance flourished.  But there was something even more amazing.  We told them we were taking this test to another school, and don’t put your name on this piece of paper, just write a few lines about your experience. And then we left a space for them to report their scores.  Would you believe that almost 40% of the students praised for intelligence lied, and only in one direction.  What does this mean?  They are writing to someone they don’t know, they’ll never meet, they didn’t put their name on the paper.  I think it means that in a fixed mindset environment, a mistake is so humiliating, so undermining, they can’t even admit it to themselves.  That’s not what happens in a learning organization.

 

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The NeuroLeadership Institute Collection

 

Excerpt from the NeuroLeadership Institute's "Stay Cool Under Pressure"

Think your emotions run you?  This transcribed excerpt from "Staying Cool Under Pressure" with David Rock and Matthew Lieberman from the NeuroLeadership Institute talk about how simply by naming an emotion allows our brains to control them a bit.  Interesting...

My little interlude in this talk is called D3 theory: disruption, disambiguation and detachment, or “why labeling makes you feel better”.  That’s probably the simple way to remember it.

So, does anyone know what these are?

{Inaudible responses from audience.}

I heard a couple of people say it.  The worry dolls.  OK.  Guatemalan worry dolls.  The legend of the Highland Indian villages of Guatemala is that if you have a problem and share it with a worry doll… They give them to their young children -- they say before going to bed tell one worry to each doll, and then place them beneath your pillow.  Whilst you sleep, the dolls will take your worries away.  OK.  So this is just one more example of the sort of common and received wisdom that we all know that putting your feelings into words can have some really nice salutary effects for us.  There is actually a very old idea both in Western and Eastern cultures. In Western culture -- you can go back more than three centuries to the philosopher Benedict de Spinoza who said that an emotion which is a passion ceases to be a passion as soon as we form a clear and distinct idea thereof. And then the founder of my field of psychology, William James, two centuries later -- this is one of the quotes that probably got me most into all the work that I do and his principles of psychology. He said that the present conscious state when I say “I feel angry” is not the direct state of anger; it is the state of saying “I feel angry”.  The act of naming them, these emotional states, has momentarily detracted from their force. And then if we go half way around the world to the East, in the context of Buddhist texts, it has been written that the skillful use of labeling introduces a healthy degree of inner detachment, since the act of apostrophizing or speaking to one’s moods and emotions diminishes one’s identification with them.   So, this is the region of the brain that I tend to focus about 60% of my waking hours on. 

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Excerpt from "Mindful Leadership" with Ellen Langer

The NeuroLeadership Institute is doing such important work around how we can use our brains better to create a more mindful society and workplace.  Check out this transcribed excerpt from "Mindful Leadership" with Ellen Langer.  Langer talks about how easily we engage in mindlessness rather than mindfulness.

We get lulled into thinking we know.  But perhaps the most important bottom line to all that I’m going to say is that we don’t know.  And we need to be excited about not knowing because that gives us reason to pay attention and tune in.  There is an easier one.  How much is “1 + 1?”.  I’ve got some of you scared already, right?  OK.  Well, it turns out that 1 + 1 = 2 if you are using the base 10 number system.   If you are using the base 2 number system, 1 + 1 = 10.  And if you’re adding one wad of chewing gum to one wad of chewing gum, 1 + 1 = 1. 

Now, what happens is, we learn information in some absolute way, oblivious to the way it may be different depending on different contexts.  What happens is that it never occurs to us to question all of these things we think we know.  So when we are uncertain, instead, we stay open to the subtleties.  We stay in the present.  So, if you ask people over 50, “You are driving along on ice, the car starts to skid -- what do you do?”  And what they’ll tell you is, “You turn into the skid and you gently press the brakes.”  Well, this made sense before we had antilock brakes.   Now what you’re supposed to do, is firmly press on the brakes.   Mindlessness is not stupidity.  It made sense at one time, people keep behaving in the same way, circumstances change, and accidents then occur.

I went into a store and I made a purchase.  The cashier asked for the credit card.  I gave it to her.  She saw that it was not signed so she asked me to sign it.  I signed it.  She then ran it through the credit card machine, gave me the credit card slip, asked me to sign it.  I signed it.  And she then compared the two signatures…

 

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The NeuroLeadership Summit Collection