Effort-focused praise between friends: Effects on mindset and motivation of giver and receiver
One of the most enduring findings of psychological research, going back to the early studies of Skinner and other Behaviorist Psychologists, has been that behavior, which results in a pleasant consequence, tends to be repeated. This finding was shown to be true for creatures ranging from human beings to flatworms!
Providing a more detailed view (in human beings!), many more recent researchers have investigated the role of praise on motivation. Social psychological researchers, for example, have found that peer praise has a positive impact on individual motivation. In addition, studies on praise from teachers and parents have found that the effect depends on the type of praise: Effort-focused praise has a positive impact on motivation, whereas ability-focused praise has a negative impact. Further, recent research has established that effort-and ability-focused praise can affect the person offering praise as well as the person receiving it.
The researchers tested three hypotheses:
Hypothesis 1: Effort-focused praise will encourage the adoption of a growth mindset by praiser and praisee, where ability-focused praise will discourage the adoption of a growth mindset.
Hypothesis 2: Effort-focused praise will lead to more persistence after failure by praiser and praisee, whereas ability-focused praise will lead to less persistence after failure.
Hypothesis 3: The effect of each of the two types of praise on persistence of praiser and praisee will be mediated by the effect on mindset.
Results show that receiving and offering effort-focused praise positively affected the growth mindset, which was, in turn, a positive predictor of persistence after failure. This indicates that effort-focused praise in friendship influenced the participants to think of ability as malleable, and they tended to persevere even after encountering a setback.
In everyday life there are important implications for all of us in the different contexts of our lives. We can be, at different times, both a praiser and a praisee!
Robert A. C. Stewart, PhD | Editor-in-Chief