It's no surprise that self-confidence plays an important role in our performance, but findings published by the American Psychological Association suggest all it takes to boost your smarts is believing that you can be smarter.
Photo by Adam UXB Smith.
Despite a lot of evidence to the contrary, many people believe that intelligence is fixed, and, moreover, that some racial and social groups are inherently smarter than others. Merely evoking these stereotypes about the intellectual inferiority of these groups (such as women and Blacks) is enough to harm the academic perfomance of members of these groups. Social psychologist Claude Steele and his collaborators (2002) have called this phenomenon "stereotype threat."
Yet social psychologists Aronson, Fried, and Good (2001) have developed a possible antidote to stereotype threat. They taught African American and European American college students to think of intelligence as changeable, rather than fixed - a lesson that many psychological studies suggests is true. Students in a control group did not receive this message. Those students who learned about IQ's malleability improved their grades more than did students who did not receive this message, and also saw academics as more important than did students in the control group.
Racial, gender and social stereotypes aside, it's a good bit of information to keep in mind next time you run into a stumbling block in your work, studies or hobbies. Your smarts aren't set in stone, and simply believing that can significantly improve your ability to learn.