Mind your errors: evidence for a neural mechanism linking growth mind-set to adaptive posterror adjustments

Psychol Sci. 2011 Dec;22(12):1484-9. doi: 10.1177/0956797611419520. Epub 2011 Oct 31.


How well people bounce back from mistakes depends on their beliefs about learning and intelligence. For individuals with a growth mind-set, who believe intelligence develops through effort, mistakes are seen as opportunities to learn and improve. For individuals with a fixed mind-set, who believe intelligence is a stable characteristic, mistakes indicate lack of ability. We examined performance-monitoring event-related potentials (ERPs) to probe the neural mechanisms underlying these different reactions to mistakes. Findings revealed that a growth mind-set was associated with enhancement of the error positivity component (Pe), which reflects awareness of and allocation of attention to mistakes. More growth-minded individuals also showed superior accuracy after mistakes compared with individuals endorsing a more fixed mind-set. It is critical to note that Pe amplitude mediated the relationship between mind-set and posterror accuracy. These results suggest that neural mechanisms indexing on-line awareness of and attention to mistakes are intimately involved in growth-minded individuals' ability to rebound from mistakes.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological / physiology*
  • Attitude*
  • Brain / physiology
  • Electroencephalography
  • Evoked Potentials*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Learning
  • Male
  • Reaction Time
  • Resilience, Psychological
  • Young Adult