Keywords: Intelligence, traits, personality, attributes, viewpoint, values, malleability

Introduction to Mindsets

Why do some people get back up when they get knocked down?  Why are others content with simply stating “I’m just not a math person?” Understanding why people fall into some of these dichotomies can possibly be explained by Carol Dweck’s implicit theories of intelligence, from her book Mindset, the New Psychology of Success (2006).  Put simply, Dweck proposed that people maintain certain beliefs about the permanence of their abilities or intelligence.  For example, those with a fixed mindset believe that their abilities cannot be changed and are innate.  In contrast, those with a growth mindset believe that they have the ability to alter their intelligence of abilities.  While mindset theory has typically been applied to assessing intelligence and direct learning (e.g. “I believe I can learn how to…”), some researchers have tried applying Dweck’s theories to other constructs, such as attitudes towards different skills or changes in health behaviors.

When Would You Measure Mindsets?

Student affairs professionals may want to measure mindsets if their goal is to gauge:

  • Whether students believe they can improve their performance on a task
  • Program effectiveness through perception of personal impact (e.g. “I think this program helped because I worked to…”)
  • Alterations in overall thoughts or beliefs before and after participating in a program/class/etc.
  • Learning improvement stemming from a changed belief system
  • Possible relationships between effort towards a task and the mindset a student holds


Those wanting to measure mindsets may find it helpful to start by reviewing related literature:

Mindset, the New Psychology of Success (Dweck, 2006). Available at Carrier Library for check-out. 

  • The original publication on implicit theories of intelligence by Dweck.  Provides information on the different mindsets, the influence of motivation, and how demographics (race, gender, socioeconomic status, etc.) can influence mindset differently. 


Mindsets That Promote Resilience: When Students Believe That Personal Characteristics Can Be Developed (Yeager & Dweck, 2012).

  • The authors provide a brief review of mindset theories, then provide evidence for how these theories relate to personality traits (resilience), conflict with peers, and social situations.  This research also discusses mindset interventions used to help meliorate transitionary periods.


Mindset, Grit, Optimism, Pessimism, and Life Satisfaction in University Students With and Without Anxiety and/or Depression (Tuckwiller & Dardick, 2018).

  • This research analyzes whether or not the type of mindset held is able to predict life satisfaction for students with and without mental health issues.  The authors also acknowledge how differing levels of grit or optimism may moderate this predictive utility.

Frequently Used Instruments/Measures

The following instruments/measures have been used to assess mindsets:

  • Implicit Theories of Intelligence Scale (ITI-General)
  • The Growth Mindset Scale (PERTS)
  • Achievement Goal Orientation Questionnaire (AGOQ)
  • Patterns of Adaptive Learning Scale (PALS)

Don’t Think This Construct Matches Your Assessment Goals?  Check Out These Related Constructs: Adjustment, Motivation, Grit

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