A culture of genius: how an organization's lay theory shapes people's cognition, affect, and behavior

Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 2010 Mar;36(3):283-96. doi: 10.1177/0146167209347380. Epub 2009 Oct 13.


Traditionally, researchers have conceptualized implicit theories as individual differences-lay theories that vary between people. This article, however, investigates the consequences of organization-level implicit theories of intelligence. In five studies, the authors examine how an organization's fixed (entity) or malleable (incremental) theory of intelligence affects people's inferences about what is valued, their self- and social judgments, and their behavioral decisions. In Studies 1 and 2, the authors find that people systematically shift their self-presentations when motivated to join an entity or incremental organization. People present their "smarts" to the entity environment and their "motivation" to the incremental environment. In Studies 3a and 4, they show downstream consequences of these inferences for participants' self-concepts and their hiring decisions. In Study 3b, they demonstrate that the effects are not due to simple priming. The implications for understanding how environments shape cognition and behavior and, more generally, for implicit theories research are discussed.

MeSH terms

  • Behavior*
  • Cognition*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intelligence*
  • Job Application
  • Male
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Organizational Culture*
  • Self Concept