Mindsets and human nature: promoting change in the Middle East, the schoolyard, the racial divide, and willpower

Am Psychol. 2012 Nov;67(8):614-22. doi: 10.1037/a0029783.


Debates about human nature often revolve around what is built in. However, the hallmark of human nature is how much of a person's identity is not built in; rather, it is humans' great capacity to adapt, change, and grow. This nature versus nurture debate matters-not only to students of human nature-but to everyone. It matters whether people believe that their core qualities are fixed by nature (an entity theory, or fixed mindset) or whether they believe that their qualities can be developed (an incremental theory, or growth mindset). In this article, I show that an emphasis on growth not only increases intellectual achievement but can also advance conflict resolution between long-standing adversaries, decrease even chronic aggression, foster cross-race relations, and enhance willpower. I close by returning to human nature and considering how it is best conceptualized and studied.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Achievement
  • Culture*
  • Human Characteristics*
  • Humans
  • Middle East
  • Self Concept*
  • Students*