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Emotions and Motivation Following Feedback About Natural Talent or Hard work

2018 Open Application Projects

Research Topic

Emotions and Motivation Following Feedback About Natural Talent or Hard work

Lead Researcher

Christina Marie Brown, Associate Professor, Arcadia University

Host Researcher

Yukiko Uchida, Associate Professor, Kokoro Research Center, Kyoto University

The purpose of this research will be to compare Japanese and American people’s reactions to believing natural talent or hard work was responsible for their success. Past research has found that natural talent is favored by people in the United States (Tsay &Banaji, 2011; Tsay, 2016). For example, American eighth graders find academic success more attractive when it comes from a combination of high ability and low effort (Juvonen &Murdock, 1995). In the United States, effort is thought to be inversely related to ability, creating the belief that people only work hard when they lack natural ability (Holloway, 1988). American students also value effort less and are more likely to believe in inborn traits than Japanese students (Holloway, 1988; Lockhart, Nakashima, Inagaki, & Keil, 2008).

Psychologist Carol Dweck and her colleagues have studied American children’s motivation after receiving praise or criticism about their ability versus their effort (Yeager & Dweck, 2012). Praising children’s ability causes children to give up when a task becomes difficult, whereas they persevere more if they are praised for having worked hard (Mueller & Dweck, 1998). In their research, the “ability” feedback referred to current ability. However, it is possible that believing in natural potential has different consequences than believing in current natural ability.

I recently conducted an experiment to test this question. American college students took a test to measure a skill they were learning for the first time. Participants were randomly assigned to receive either (1) no feedback, (2) simple praise (e.g., “Good job!”, or (3) feedback stating that they had natural talent so they would develop this skill faster than most other people. Students worked harder and persevered longer on the task when they believed they possessed natural potential compared to the students who received simple praise.

In collaboration with the Kokoro Research Center, I would like to compare American and Japanese people’s reactions to feedback about effort, natural ability, and natural potential. The specific reactions that would be compared are emotions (happiness and pride) and motivation (perseverance to continue developing that new skill). First, it is expected that Americans will feel the most happiness and pride in the natural talent conditions, whereas Japanese will fell the most happiness and pride in the effort condition. Second, it is expected that American students will practice most after being told they have natural potential. Because most of the research on this topic has been conducted with people in the United States, it is difficult to predict how Japanese students will react. However past research has established that there are clear cultural differences in beliefs about ability versus effort (Rattan, Savani, Naidu, Dweck, 2012). Because effort is valued in Japan more than in the United States (Holloway, 1988), it is possible that Japanese participants will practice most after their effort has been praised. However, because adults in both Japan and the United States report believing that many traits are permanent and do not change over time (Lockhart et al., 2009), it is possible that the feedback about natural potential will be motivating for Japanese participants as well.

The role of the collaborative researcher (Yukiko Uchida) will be to jointly discuss the experimental design and hypotheses, assist with resources to collect data in Japan, and co-author presentations and publications of the research.