Mind-sets matter: A meta-analytic review of implicit theories and self-regulation

Jeni L. Burnette*, Ernest H. O'Boyle, Eric M. VanEpps, Jeffrey M. Pollack, Eli J. Finkel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

659 Scopus citations


This review builds on self-control theory (Carver & Scheier, 1998) to develop a theoretical framework for investigating associations of implicit theories with self-regulation. This framework conceptualizes self-regulation in terms of 3 crucial processes: goal setting, goal operating, and goal monitoring. In this meta-analysis, we included articles that reported a quantifiable assessment of implicit theories and at least 1 self-regulatory process or outcome. With a random effects approach used, meta-analytic results (total unique N = 28,217; k = 113) across diverse achievement domains (68% academic) and populations (age range = 5-42; 10 different nationalities; 58% from United States; 44% female) demonstrated that implicit theories predict distinct self-regulatory processes, which, in turn, predict goal achievement. Incremental theories, which, in contrast to entity theories, are characterized by the belief that human attributes are malleable rather than fixed, significantly predicted goal setting (performance goals, r = -.151; learning goals, r =.187), goal operating (helpless-oriented strategies, r = -.238; masteryoriented strategies, r =.227), and goal monitoring (negative emotions, r = -.233; expectations, r =.157). The effects for goal setting and goal operating were stronger in the presence (vs. absence) of ego threats such as failure feedback. Discussion emphasizes how the present theoretical analysis merges an implicit theory perspective with self-control theory to advance scholarship and unlock major new directions for basic and applied research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)655-701
Number of pages47
JournalPsychological bulletin
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2013


  • Achievement
  • Implicit theories
  • Self-control theory
  • Self-regulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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