# Praising for intelligence may stop learners from learning

Praising is a way to reinforce a behaviour, hence the behaviour that will be reinforced is related to what you are praising for. You may praise a learner for their intelligence, for example like, "You're very smart," so that they keep up their good work. Counterintuitively, however, learners tend to be protective of their self-image when they're praised for their intelligence (Ahrens 53). This means being recognised for their intelligence is what you have reinforced, therefore if they make any attempts to take on new challenges, they will risk losing that recognition.


Ahrens, How to Take Smart Notes (p. 53).

Dweck shows convincingly that the most reliable predictor for long-term success is having a "growth mindset." [...]. Conversely, nothing is a bigger hindrance to personal growth than having a "fixed mindset." Those who fear and avoid feedback because it might damage their cherished positive self-image might feel better in the short term, but will quickly fall behind in actual performance (Dweck 2006; 2013). Ironically, it is therefore often the highly gifted and talented students, who receive a lot of praise, who are more in danger of developing a fixed mindset and getting stuck.

Scientific Secrets for Raising Kids Who Thrive Audiobook | Peter M. Vishton, The Great Courses | Audible.co.uk (Downloadable PDF)

We have described how children might be hindered by learning to think of themselves as “not smart.” At the same time, children who are told repeatedly that they are very smart are especially subject to problematic attributions when they perform poorly. Frequent praise of children for being smart seems to motivate them to be protective of that self-image.
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Several studies have compared children who are praised after success for “being smart” to those who are praised for “working hard.” When researchers look at the academic achievement of children praised for effort, they consistently outperform those praised for being smart.