Mindset, the seminal book by Carol Dweck, a Stanford University psychologist, unpacks the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset.
In a fixed mindset, the belief is that intelligence is fixed and static. You are smart, or you aren’t. This was the widely accepted theory of cognitive development until a series of experiments in the 50’s and 60’s by UC Berkley professor, Mark Rosenzweig. His work with environmental influences on rats turned the idea of innate intelligence upside down.
In contrast, a growth mindset is the belief that intelligence is dynamic and that the brain changes based on experiences. This theory of growth mindset is supported by research into brain plasticity and has proven to be pivotal in helping students improve their academic achievement. (You can listen to an NPR story about this here.)
Below is an image that illustrates the (generalized) difference in behaviors between people of each mindset.
Image: Nigel Holmes / Graph Content: Carol Dweck