Note about coverage of mindset research in the Atlantic

This note is in reference to this recent article in the Atlantic:


We thank The Atlantic for its recent article by Thomas Toch and Susan Headden covering our research on psychological strategies that can help students thrive in school. This article continues The Atlantic’s long tradition of excellence in reporting on psychology and education, including Claude Steele’s seminal essays on “stereotype threat” (here and here), on which our work builds.


Here we would simply like to highlight three issues to help provide a context for our research. First, some people may think that research on mindsets tries to “fix” students with inherent deficiencies or insecurities. It does not. Many students have legitimate worries about whether they can safely invest themselves in schoolwork. These worries are the result of societal messages that struggle means you are not “smart” and of erroneous but pervasive stereotypes about the capabilities of low-income students and students of color. Mindset interventions are designed to buffer students from these harmful messages. They help enhance students’ feelings of belonging so that they can invest in school and achieve more.


Second, mindset interventions are not a replacement for addressing root problems in schools or society, such as poor teaching or the widespread and brutal effects of poverty and bias. Children will always need safety, security, and adequate resources at home and in school. These, combined with thoughtful and well-tested psychological interventions, will help our students the most.


Third, we agree with the authors that mindset interventions need more testing. We and many other investigators are diligently addressing this need. We need to know for whom and under what circumstances mindset interventions are most effective and how to make them more effective for more students. We are also deeply interested in how mindset interventions can work hand in hand with other approaches to reducing educational inequality.


Once again, we thank The Atlantic for its thoughtful treatment of our work.


David Yeager, Greg Walton, and Carol Dweck