Implicit Theories of Intelligence Predict Achievement Across an Adolescent Transition: A longitudinal study and an intervention

Lisa Blackwell
Kali Trzeniewski
Carol Dweck


Two studies explored the role of implicit theories of intelligence in adolescents' mathematics achievement. In Study 1 with 373 7th graders, the belief that intelligence is malleable (incremental theory) predicted an upward trajectory in grades over the two years of junior high school, while a belief that intelligence is fixed (entity theory) predicted a flat trajectory. A mediational model including learning goals, positive beliefs about effort, and causal attributions and strategies was tested. In Study 2, an intervention teaching an incremental theory to 7th graders (N = 48) promoted positive change in classroom motivation, compared with a control group (N = 43). Simultaneously, students in the control group displayed a continuing downward trajectory in grades, while this decline was reversed for students in the



Article describes two different studies:
In Study 1, we followed four waves of entering
junior high school students, measuring their implicit
theories and other achievement-related beliefs at the
outset of junior high and then assessing their
achievement outcomes as they progressed through
the seventh and eighth grades. We then tested an
integrated causal model, based on prior experimental research, of the processes linking achievement-
related beliefs measured at the onset of junior high to
achievement strategies and actual achievement outcomes over the junior high transition.
Students with incremental and entity theories began to pull apart in math in junior high.
If the different theories of intelligence are indeed
associated with contrasting motivational patterns,
then teaching students to think of their intelligence
as malleable should cause them to display more
positive motivation in the classroom, and in turn to
achieve more highly. In Study 2, we first replicated
the test of our mediational model on a new, lower-
achieving sample of students over a shorter time
course. Next, in the spring term, we performed an
intervention to teach an incremental theory to half of
the students, and then assessed the effects on class-
room motivation and achievement, in comparison
with students in a control group.
If students can change their beliefs about the nature of intelligence, it changes their performance.

APA Citation

Blackwell, L. S., Trzesniewski, K. H., & Dweck, C. S. (2007). Implicit theories of intelligence predict achievement across an adolescent transition: A longitudinal study and an intervention. Child development, 78(1), 246-263.

About the Study

Links to Article
Publication Type Journal Article
In Publication Child Development
Type of Research Quantitative
Research Design Experiments
Intervention/Areas of Study Other
Level of Analysis Student-level
Specific Populations Examined Minority status
Peer-Reviewed Yes
Specific Institutional Characteristics of Interest K-12
Specific Course or Program Characteristics STEM
Outcome Variables of Interest Academic achievement or performance, including assessment scores and course grades
Student Sample Size 400-499
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