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Women suffer from the negative stereotype that they are innately worse at math compared to men, which contributes to a gender gap in math fields (Spencer, Steele, & Quinn, 1999). However, this stereotype has a greater negative impact on women with fixed mindsets, who believe that intelligence is inflexible and innate (Aronson, Fried, & Good, 2002). Mindset interventions thus far have sought to shift fixed mindset to growth mindset, characterized by the belief that effort can increase intelligence, through in-class workshops or lectures about the plasticity of the brain and the malleability of intelligence (Dweck & Leggett, 1988; Dweck, 2000; Dweck, 2008). The current study improves upon existing mindset interventions through the inclusion of a writing task that asks participants to generate autobiographical narratives about growth experiences. This intervention should create an internalization of growth mindset that is longer lasting, less susceptible to counter-information, and more directive for behavior than existing interventions (Reich & Arkin, 2006; Wilson, 2011; Aronson, 1999). Participants’ theories of math intelligence were measured, and then participants were placed into a growth narrative condition, a growth article condition, or a high-point narrative condition, which served as a control. Participants then took a math assessment followed by measures of task involvement, enjoyment, and effort. Analyses showed no main effect of condition; there was no difference on math performance or task measures between participants who wrote about growth, read about growth, or wrote about a positive experience. However, there was a significant main effect of initial mindset on math performance, task involvement, enjoyment, and effort, such that initial growth mindset correlated with better performance and higher scores on all the task measures. Limitations and implications for the results are discussed.
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Frishberg, Eva Briana, "The Effects of Autobiographical Growth Narratives on Math Performance in Women" (2017). Senior Projects Spring 2017. 291.
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