Expanding minds: Growth mindsets of self-regulation and the influences on effort and perseverance

Alissa J. Mrazek*, Elliott D. Ihm, Daniel C. Molden, Michael D. Mrazek, Claire M. Zedelius, Jonathan W. Schooler

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Given that countless studies have documented the wide-ranging benefits of self-regulation, determining if and how self-regulation can be improved is an important scientific and societal priority. Existing theories suggest that the deterioration of self-regulation is partially shaped by perceptions of effort. Therefore, one promising way to sustain self-regulation may be to cultivate a growth mindset, which has been shown to affect behavior in part by altering effort attributions. Although growth mindsets—the belief that a given trait can be improved through practice—have been studied extensively, particularly in the domain of intelligence, little research has examined the effects of promoting a growth mindset specifically about self-regulation. Here five studies test how promoting a growth mindset of self-regulation impacts actual self-regulation in daily life and the laboratory. In Study 1, relative to an active control that received relationship training, an intensive self-regulation training program emphasizing a growth mindset led participants to persevere longer on impossible anagrams, which was partially mediated by altering attributions of mental fatigue. Relatively, the self-regulation training also led participants to notice more opportunities for self-control in daily life and more successfully resist everyday temptations. The subsequent four studies isolated and abbreviated the growth mindset manipulation, demonstrated improved persistence and decreased effort avoidance, and attempted to further examine the critical mediators. Collectively, results indicate that a growth mindset of self-regulation can change attributions and allocation of effort in meaningful ways that may affect the willingness to attempt challenging tasks and the perseverance required to complete them.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)164-180
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
StatePublished - Nov 2018


  • Effort
  • Effort avoidance
  • Growth mindset
  • Implicit theories
  • Mindsets
  • Self-regulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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