Effort-focused praise between friends: Effects on mindset and motivation of giver and receiver
Kyosuke Kakinuma (Doshisha University and Japan Society for the Promotion of Science), Fumika Nishiguti, Kotoe Sonoda, Haruhi Tajiri, and Ayumi Tanaka (Doshisha University), 2021, 49(2), e9534

This paper caught my attention because I’ve observed the greater effectiveness on motivation of effort-focused over ability-focused praise within a writer’s group of which I’m a member. That is, specific commentary regarding how hard the person worked to improve a section of their story is typically much better received in terms of appreciation and subsequent motivation to continue writing than is a general comment about them being “so good at writing,” or equivalent.

In this study Kakinuma et al. examined the effect of praise on both the person giving the praise and the person receiving it. To test these effects, participants were divided into three groups: those who received effort-focused praise, ability-focused praise, or no praise; and then further allocated to one of two groups who were instructed to imagine either that (a) they had cooked for a friend or (b) a friend had cooked for them. The measured outcomes across these six groups were mindset and persistence. Both receiving and offering effort-focused praise had a direct positive effect on growth mindset. Further, there was an indirect positive effect of giving and receiving effort-focused praise on persistence following failure; however, ability-focused praise did not have a significant effect on either mindset or persistence. Those who received no praise showed a lower level of growth mindset than those in the effort-focused praise group, but as regards persistence, there were no significant differences between each praise group and the control group, or between the praisees and praisers.

I appreciated Kakinuma et al.’s use of a scenario-based setting, which allowed them to “control for confounders such as communication content, impression, and the relationship between praiser and praisee.” Beyond that, sharing food with loved ones is such a universal experience, and I think anyone who cooks can relate to the feeling of being buoyed or disheartened by appreciation—or lack thereof—from people eating the food you have made. Although this study is inevitably limited by the use of a laboratory-based (vs. real-life) scenario, I thought this was a practical choice of setting to test the examined variables.

The authors note that their results “revealed common aspects between praise in equal-status relationships and praise by authority figures.” I was interested to note this, in particular, because of the contexts in which praise is typically received from each of these sources, whereby peers may offer praise about any aspect of life, contrasted with the strictly work-related positive feedback that is generally offered by authority figures. Thus, the findings appear to have wide applicability to a variety of interpersonal interactions.

Sarah Krivan | Copyeditor
Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal