Research Library

Search over three decades of research on mindsets, including Mindset Scholars Network briefs and working papers, and other publications from Network studies and initiatives.


Developmental Stage

Publication Type

Results: Lee, Hae Yeon

Grades often decline during the high school transition, creating stress. The present research integrates the biopsychosocial model of challenge and threat with the implicit theories model to understand who shows maladaptive stress responses. A diary study measured declines in grades in the first few months of high school: salivary cortisol and daily stress appraisals. Students who reported a fixed mindset showed higher cortisol when grades were declining. Moreover, daily academic stressors showed a different lingering effect on the next day's cortisol for those with different implicit theories. Findings support a process model through which beliefs affect biological stress responses during difficult adolescent transitions.

This research integrated implicit theories of personality and the biopsychosocial model of challenge and threat, hypothesizing that adolescents would be more likely to conclude that they can meet the demands of an evaluative social situation when they were taught that people have the potential to change their socially relevant traits. Participants who received incremental interventions incremental-theory participants exhibited improved stress appraisals, more adaptive neuroendocrine and cardiovascular responses, and better performance outcomes. Students who received the intervention also had better grades over freshman year than those who did not. These findings offer new avenues for improving theories of adolescent stress and coping.

There are many promising psychological interventions on the horizon, but there is no clear methodology for preparing them to be scaled up. Drawing on design thinking, the present research formalizes a methodology for redesigning and tailoring initial interventions. The researchers test the methodology using the case of fixed versus growth mindsets during the transition to high school. The current research provides a model for how to improve and scale interventions that begin to address pressing educational problems. It also provides insight into how to teach a growth mindset more effectively.