Human Development Program
University of California, San Diego
Previous research studies have revealed conclusions regarding the effects of praise and criticism on people’s performance, yet none has answered which instructional method, effort-instruction or praise-instruction, yields better performance in students. In this study, 53 undergraduates students, 47 female and 6 males, ages 19-27 were randomly divided into two groups before being administered a 12-question test. One group, the Effort Instruction Group, was given explicit instructions to put forth their best effort while the other group, the Intelligence Instruction Group, was praised for their intelligence. The results supported the hypothesis that the mean EIG test score would be significantly better than IIG. These results may help educational institutions decide which instructional methods maximize students learning and performance.
Keywords: Effort instruction, intelligence instruction, instructional methods
Effort-Instruction Versus Intelligence-Instruction Effects on Performance
Do people perform a task better when they are praised for their intelligence beforehand or do they perform better when they are explicitly asked to put forth their best effort? Questions regarding contrasting instructional methods are of interest to educational institutions, teachers, and students alike because they may very well hold the keys to maximizing performance and the potential for learning.
Conventional wisdom suggests that praising a person’s ability is an acceptable method for promoting self-confidence, but previous research has challenged this notion. Conclusions from previous studies maintain that students who are directed towards judging their ability while performing a task are likely to demonstrate low expectations for future success when met with setbacks (Kamins & Dweck, 1999). In the same study, Kamins and Dweck conclude that students who are led to focus on their effort are more likely to expect future improvement and success because any failure encountered are not viewed as shortcomings in their abilities but rather in their strategies, which could be revised. Thus, encouraging a person to focus on their efforts rather than their abilities leads to a more positive mastery-oriented response by the person, even in the face of setbacks, while directing a person towards focusing on their abilities teaches them that their competence or worth is determined by their performance, which can result in helpless response patterns in the face of setbacks (Kamins & Dweck, 1999). These conclusions are discussed in light of a person’s response and performance following a failure or setback, but what about tasks in which there are no setbacks? In this case conventional wisdom holds true that praise results in better performance in consequent tasks than does reproof (Anderson, White, & Wash, 1966). Though the study does not differentiate between praising and criticizing the person’s ability or their effort, it does show that praise has more generalized positive effects on a person’s performance than criticism (Anderson et al., 1966).
While the aforementioned research studies present revealing conclusions regarding the effects of praise and criticism on people’s performance, they have not decisively answered which instructional method, effort-instruction or praise-instruction, yields better performance. The present study seeks to contribute to literary knowledge by once and for all providing an answer to this question. Rather than praising or criticizing a person’s ability or their effort after a task and examining how the person performs in consequent tasks, as all previous research studies have done, the present study will either praise the research subject’s intelligence or appeal to their effort beforehand. In this manner, the present study...