Implicit Intelligence Theories Predict STEM Majors’ Psychological and Behavioral Outcomes
Authors:Amy Arambulo, Robin Blauvelt, Erica Decker, Erika Estrada, Abdiel Flores, Ying Moua, Elizabeth Shea, Timothy Vande Krol, Delisa Young
Mentor:Bettina Casad, Associate Professor of Psychology, California State Polytechnic University Pomona
Individuals endorsing an entity theory believe intelligence remains fixed throughout life, while those endorsing an incremental theory believe intelligence is malleable (Dweck, 1996). It seems plausible that those who see intelligence as malleable would be more likely to believe that academic subjects they struggled with as children, such as math and science, could be mastered as adults. This should increase the likelihood that they would take academic risks, such as enrolling in challenging science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) courses. If individuals assumed others endorsed an incremental theory as well, they should be less likely to feel stigmatized when taking STEM courses, since this theory is incompatible with stereotypes alleging unalterable deficiencies in intelligence. This lack of stigma consciousness in STEM, along with the belief that the past does not determine one’s destiny, should increase self-esteem. We hypothesized that holding an incremental view of intelligence would predict positive math and science attitudes, greater risk taking behavior, and higher self-esteem, whereas a fixed view would predict greater stigma consciousness.
Participants (N = 463) were undergraduates majoring in STEM. They completed an online questionnaire that assessed several constructs including implicit intelligence theories, math and science attitudes, risk taking behaviors, self-esteem, and stigma consciousness.
Regression analyses supported our hypotheses. Specifically, those who believed intelligence is malleable had more positive attitudes toward math, ß = .217, p = .001, and science, ß = .227, p = .001, were more likely to take risks, ß = .267, p = .001, and had higher self-esteem, ß = .226, p = .001. Lastly, those with an entity view had greater stigma consciousness, ß = -.133, p = .004.
Taken together, current and past findings show how a person’s belief about the malleability of intelligence can potentially affect the obstacles and opportunities they will face in STEM.