Are You Smart?

10/9/11 - Although modesty may make you hesitate to answer with a resounding "yes!," when asked the question above, you should at least be thinking in the affirmative. Regular visitors to this website and subscribers to The Mind Power Report know that I am an advocate of having the right mind set and looking for examples of one's intelligence. I have also mentioned more than once that it helps to have the belief that you can become smarter. Now I can report on some new research that backs this up.

Specifically, the new study found that those who believe they can learn from mistakes have different reactions to them in their brains, and then do learn more than those who have more of a belief in intelligence being less malleable. The research will be published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. As reported on the site;

“One big difference between people who think intelligence is malleable and those who think intelligence is fixed is how they respond to mistakes,” says Jason S. Moser, of Michigan State University, who collaborated on the new study with Hans S. Schroder, Carrie Heeter, Tim P. Moran, and Yu-Hao Lee...

For this study, Moser and his colleagues gave participants a task that is easy to make a mistake on. They were supposed to identify the middle letter of a five-letter series like “MMMMM” or “NNMNN.” Sometimes the middle letter was the same as the other four, and sometimes it was different. “It’s pretty simple, doing the same thing over and over, but the mind can’t help it; it just kind of zones out from time to time,” Moser says. That’s when people make mistakes—and they notice it immediately, and feel stupid.

Electrical activity in the brain was monitored during the experiments. Two reactions are noted when a mistake is made. The first is a "something is wrong" brain signal, and the second happens when there is conscious recognition of the error an attempt to correct it. Those with a stronger belief that they can learn from mistakes produced a bigger signal of the second type in their brains. They subsequently did better in the tests. The article noted:

The research shows that these people are different on a fundamental level, Moser says. “This might help us understand why exactly the two types of individuals show different behaviors after mistakes.” People who think they can learn from their mistakes have brains that are tuned to pay more attention to mistakes, he says. This research could help in training people to believe that they can work harder and learn more, by showing how their brain is reacting to mistakes.

So are you smart? Careful how you answer that. The research is showing what we all should have suspected anyhow; that how we think about how we think affects how we think. (I'll have to save that one for a word puzzle on how many times you can have a phrase in a sentence while still making sense.)

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