How Praise Can Reduce IQ

How Praise Can Reduce IQ


Compliments are important, right? I can go at least a month on a good compliment, okay, maybe a day. Compliments build self-esteem and confidence. But, there is a “But”. See experiments show that if you compliment someone in the wrong way you can actually reduce their IQ. 

Professor Carol Dweck gave two groups of kids part of an IQ test. Afterwards, one group were praised for their ability. They were told how smart they were. The other group were praised for effort, they were told, “you’ve worked really hard.” Later both groups were offered a more challenging task. The majority of the ability-praised kids resisted it, they didn’t want to reveal that maybe they weren’t so “smart.” In contrast 90% of the effort-praised kids embraced it. When they went back to the easy IQ tasks, the kids praised for working hard actually improved their performance. While the performance of those praised for being smart plummeted.

Why? If you’re told you’re smart you never want it proved that you’re not, so you avoid taking on new challenges and fail to build your skills. In contrast, if you’re praised for effort, you roll up your sleeves and embrace tougher problems. When you struggle you just work harder. That hones your skills with easier tasks too. Professor Dweck calls it the difference between a fixed and a growth mindset. If you think intelligence or talent is something you’re born with – fixed – you avoid trying to improve it. Why try improve something that doesn’t change? However, if you think you can grow smarter you keep working.
One way to encourage anyone to develop a growth mindset is to compliment them on learning and working hard rather than being smart or gifted. You might even want to congratulate them when they fail. See the biggest failures never fail; they’re too busy pretending to be smart.

According to Dr. Tony Humphreys, only three percent of gifted children make any important social contribution as adults. Having got comfortable with recognition they don’t want to do anything that may bring failure. What we need to help them see is that failure is temporary. Unless you give up. Then it lasts forever. Now if like me your only gifts are the ones you got on your birthday that’s okay, intelligence isn’t a fixed state it’s something that grows – as long as you have a growth mindset.

Now experiment on yourself!

“You didn’t meet my expectations, you surpassed them.” Amal Tantawi, CEO, Lafarge, Zimbabwe

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Comments (4)

  1. Justin Cohen :

    Thank you for your message Saeid, I really appreciate your positive feedback. I still think fondly of my time in Iran, I hope you are thriving!

  2. Saeid :

    hello justin. i’ve been in one of your seminars about success being held in tehran some years ago and since that time i became a fan of you and i’m receiving your newsletters. this article was also very practical and smart. i’de like to appreciate for that. hope to have a ever thriving life.

  3. Justin Cohen :

    Hi Eddy, I would suggest only complimenting on effort. However I’m sure the occasional compliment on ability would not the too harmful.

  4. EddyMash :

    Does it mean that if you compliment one using both methods the results could be better and effecient?
    In relations to relationship, where one has to be very cautious on what they say.