PerspectiveHuman Development

The social origins of persistence

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Science  22 Sep 2017:
Vol. 357, Issue 6357, pp. 1236-1237
DOI: 10.1126/science.aao6255

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Effort and hard work have long been regarded as key to achievement and success. But individuals hold different beliefs about how important effort is in determining success, relative to pure talent or natural skill. Recent research has shown that holding a growth mindset—that is, a set of beliefs that emphasize the malleability of intelligence and skill, focus on hard work and effort rather than talent, and view failures and setbacks as potential learning opportunities—may predict later academic and even life success (13). Moreover, teaching students to focus on effort and see failures as learning opportunities presents a promising lever for interventions to boost individual achievement and outcomes (4). But are such beliefs or mindsets something akin to a heritable personality trait, or could adults play a key role in fostering it in children from a very young age? On page 1290 of this issue, Leonard et al. (5) show that infants can learn the value of hard work simply by observing an adult try hard to achieve a goal, leading them to try harder when they face their own challenging task.