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Mark Stringer's Blog

Helplessness vs Mastery

[Carol Dweck] divided grade-school children into 'helpless' and 'mastery-oriented' groups, depending on their explanatory style. She then gave them a series of failures - unsolvable problems - followed by successes, solvable problems.

"Before the failures there was no difference at all between the two groups. But once they started to fail, and astonishing difference emerged. The helpless children's problem-solving strategies deteriorated down to the first-grade level. They began to hate the task and talk about how good they were at baseball or acting in the class play. When the mastery-oriented children failed, they stayed at their fourth-grade level in their strategies, and while acknowledging that they must be making mistages, they stayed involved. One mastery-oriented child actually rolled up her sleeves and said, 'I love a challenge.' They all expressed confidence that they would soon be on track and kept at it.
(from Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman)

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