Were Albert Einstein and Leonardo da Vinci born brilliant or did they acquire their intelligence through effort? No one knows for sure, but telling people the latter – that hard work trumps genes – causes instant changes in the brain and may make them more willing to strive for success, indicates a new study from Michigan State University.
“Giving people messages that encourage learning and motivation may promote more efficient performance,” said Schroder, a doctoral student in clinical psychology whose work is funded by the National Science Foundation. “In contrast, telling people that intelligence is genetically fixed may inadvertently hamper learning.”
The MSU study, which appears online in the journal Biological Psychology, offers what could be the first physiological evidence to support those findings, in the form of a positive brain response. “These subtle messages seem to have a big impact, and now we can see they have an immediate impact on how the brain handles information about performance,” Schroder said.