Upper school students packed the Saratoga gym in early April to attend a talk by Stanford graduate student Carissa Romero, who earlier in the year helped administer a test made up of SAT math questions to several Harker students.
The purpose of the test was to determine how a student’s mindset on intelligence could affect the outcome of an exam. During the April assembly, Romero presented eye-opening data from various studies that strongly supported the idea that intelligence can be grown, and that a high IQ is not something people simply do or do not have.
Students who believed that higher intelligence was the result of hard work and studying, for instance, were found to have better grades on exams than those who had the “fixed intelligence” mindset. These “growth mindset” students, her data showed, also highly valued effort and said they were more likely to spend more time on something when setbacks occurred. Fixed mindset students, on the other hand, were more likely to give up or spend less time when presented with setbacks.
During her presentation, Romero also showed a video TV news segment that showed children responded differently to various types of feedback. Children who were congratulated for working hard on a problem set were more likely to attempt more challenging problems, while those who were told that they were smart favored doing sets of similar problems to avoid being discouraged. In other studies, students with the growth mindset performed better on IQ tests than did those with the fixed mindset.
These and other data added more fuel to the notion that the brain is like a muscle that can be exercised to work better and more efficiently as it forms new connections between neurons. In one example, the part of the brain that specializes in spatial abilities was shown to be larger than average in London taxi drivers.