Fata Morgana (chimerically) wrote,
Fata Morgana

innate vs. learned intelligence

At bab5 last week I had a long discussion with Rebecca and Greg about the plasticity of the human mind and the false essentialization of brain structure (as if it can't change). While this has many implications for various aspects of identity that come up a lot in my research (and we did discuss gender at length, particularly some alternative meanings behind the so-called differences in brain structure between men and women that tend to be over-essentialized in the news and in badly-researched books like The Female Brain, torn apart in the news [also here and here] and blogs a while ago now), we also talked around the essentialization of intelligence -- the assumption that if you do smart things, that means you're (naturally) smart, not that you've worked hard to learn how to do smart things.

I mentioned research on the Western tendency toward the fundamental attribution error, which likely affects this bias, and research on stereotype threat and other factors that affect intellectual performance. I also mentioned research on the performance effects of believing in innate vs. learned intelligence (longer article here) (which unfortunately lacks a nice buzzword ... c'mon, social science, don't fail me now!). In short, one study found that kids told that they did well on a task because they were smart were less likely to try a harder task subsequently and scored lower on the next test they did take, while kids told that they did well because they worked hard were more likely to try a harder task subsequently and do well on it. I've read a couple of other studies along these lines with similar results.

Fortuitously, another friend independently discovered several links related to this topic (embedded above) in the last week and sent them to me, so I figured it was time to actually try to put these ideas and links together into a post.

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