Contributions of fixed mindsets and hopelessness to anxiety and depressive symptoms: A commonality analysis approach

Michael C. Mullarkey, Jessica L. Schleider*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Background: Fixed mindsets (beliefs that personal traits are unchangeable) show consistent associations with internalizing symptoms. However, the mindset-internalizing symptom link has previously been studied in isolation of other maladaptive cognitions that relate to internalizing symptoms. Thus, the unique contributions of mindsets to internalizing symptoms remains unclear. Method: We used commonality analysis (CA), which yields unique and shared effects of independent variables on an outcome, to assess unique contributions of emotion and anxiety mindsets to anxiety and depression symptoms, relative to the contributions of hopelessness. Participants in two online studies (Ns=200, 430) self-reported depression and anxiety symptoms, hopelessness, and emotion and anxiety mindsets. Results: In Study 1, neither mindset type contributed unique variance to depression or anxiety beyond the contribution of hopelessness. In Study 2, emotion mindsets again explained no unique symptom variance. Anxiety mindsets uniquely contributed 2.0% and 6.5% of depression and anxiety variance, respectively—but far larger proportions of symptom variance (20.0%-60.9%) were contributed by hopelessness alone, variance shared by hopelessness and anxiety mindsets, and variance shared among hopelessness, anxiety mindsets, and emotion mindsets. Limitations: The cross-sectional design precludes causal conclusions, and the non-referred adult samples may limit generalizability. Discussion: Mindsets contributed little unique variance to internalizing symptoms beyond hopelessness. Interventions teaching growth mindsets have been shown to reduce internalizing problem in past studies. However, these interventions might not necessarily operate by shaping mindsets; rather, they may affect symptom change by shaping closely-linked maladaptive cognitions—like hopelessness—with stronger ties to internalizing distress.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)245-252
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
StatePublished - Jan 15 2020


  • Anxiety
  • Anxiety mindset
  • Commonality analysis
  • Depression
  • Emotion mindset
  • Hopelessness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology


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