The Wall Street Journal:
Many people think of intelligence as static: you are born with lots of brains, very few, or somewhere in between, and that quantum of intelligence largely determines how well you do in school and in life.
The astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has never liked this view. “I hardly ever use the word intelligence,” says Mr. Tyson, who directs the Hayden Planetarium in New York. “I think of people as either wanting to learn, ambivalent about learning or rejecting learning.” He speaks from experience: As a young man, he was booted from one doctoral program but managed to get into another and complete his Ph.D.
Over the past 25 years, social scientists have produced some key insights into how successful people overcome their unsuccessful moments—and they have found that attitudes toward learning play a large role from a young age.
In a 1978 study, the Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck and a colleague gave a series of puzzles to children, all of them about 10 years old. The first eight problems required some careful thought, but none was too demanding. The next four, however, were far too hard for anyone that age to solve in the allotted time. On the first eight, all of the youngsters solved the exercises and appeared to enjoy them. But everything changed with the impossible second set.
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