Mindset by Carol Dweck: A Critical Review

By | First Published: | Last Updated: 19 September, 2021

In her top-selling book Mindset, renowned psychologist Carol Dweck shares her insights into how changing the way you think helps you fulfil your potential.  More specifically, Carol outlines how adopting what she refers to as a growth mindset can help you thrive in all aspects of life. These aspects include:







In this review, I will be focussing on the link between a growth mindset and success at school.

What is a Growth Mindset?

In a nutshell, a growth mindset is a belief that intelligence and other abilities are malleable. Put another way, intelligence is like a muscle that can be increased with effort over time.

Fixed Mindset

The growth mindset is quite different to a fixed mindset, which is a belief that abilities such as intelligence are set in stone. You have the abilities you were born with and those abilities don’t change.

For more, see:

The Reality

Psychologists agree that intelligence is a complex mix of both nature and nurture1.

Does this mean that a belief in the growth mindset is naive, wishful thinking? In short, no it doesn’t. While a growth mindset focuses on the idea that intelligence can be developed, it does not deny that genetic endowment also plays a role. Carol Dweck makes this clear in her book.

Today most experts agree that it’s not either–or. It’s not nature or nurture, genes or environment. From conception on, there’s a constant give-and-take between the two.

Carol dweck – mindset

So What? Why Do Mindsets Matter?

Carol Dweck explains that our mindset matter, because they influence our perceptions and behaviours related to:



It’s not just that some people happen to recognize the value of challenging themselves and the importance of effort. Our research has shown that this comes directly from the growth mindset. When we teach people the growth mindset, with its focus on development, these ideas about challenge and effort follow.

carol dweck – mindset

Put another way, Dweck claims that when people believe that their abilities (e.g. intelligence) can be developed, people automatically start stretching and challenging themselves while putting in the effort needed to succeed. In the second edition of her book Mindset, Carol adds problem-solving and help-seeking to her claimed list of flow-on effects.

This is a bold claim!

Conversely, Carol Dweck claims that people who believe their abilities are fixed are motivated to avoid failure.

See how these claims stack up against the evidence in my related article, Growth Mindset Explained.

shaun killian drawing

(MEd., MLead.)

Shaun Killian (me) is an experienced and passionate teacher, as well as a past school principal. After a heart transplant and having both my legs amputated, I am not yet capable of returning to work. Yet, my passion for helping students succeed has led me to use my time to research teaching and associated practices. I then share what I find in practical ways through this website. The greatest compliment I have ever received from a past student was I never left any student behind. That is mission of most teachers and I hope you find the information on this site useful.

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