Fixed vs. Growth Mindsets

Mindset, the seminal book by Carol Dweck, a Stanford University psychologist, unpacks the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset.

In a fixed mindset, the belief is that intelligence is fixed and static. You are smart, or you aren’t. This was the widely accepted theory of cognitive development until a series of experiments in the 50’s and 60’s by UC Berkley professor, Mark Rosenzweig. His work with environmental influences on rats turned the idea of innate intelligence upside down.

In contrast, a growth mindset is the belief that intelligence is dynamic and that the brain changes based on experiences. This theory of growth mindset is supported by research into brain plasticity and has proven to be pivotal in helping students improve their academic achievement. (You can listen to an NPR story about this here.)

Below is an image that illustrates the (generalized) difference in behaviors between people of each mindset.


Image: Nigel Holmes / Graph Content: Carol Dweck



  1. […] Importance of this groundbreaking research: Until then, innate intelligence was widely accepted. Aside from size, you were born with the brain you’ll have for your whole life. However, Dr. Rosenzweig’s replicable studies made the case for the environment in the nature vs. nurture debate. With this research as the foundation, it is now widely accepted that the brain remains “plastic” throughout our lives, constantly changing in response to our environment. When we understand this, in the work of Carol Dweck, we have a “growth mindset.” […]

  2. […] Shared Fixed+vs.+Growth+Mindsets. […]

  3. […] nurturing a ‘growth mindset’ as opposed to a ‘fixed mindset’ is presented here. In summary – those with a growth mindset (young or old) fundamentally believe that […]

  4. […] It is also very much related to the work of Carol Dweck, fixed v. growth mindsets: […]

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