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How Students’ Theories About Their Intelligence Help Them Achieve Their Goals

Fixed Intelligence

Source: Florent Hauchard

A large part of student performance depends on how the student views their potential. For example, if a student sees themselves succeeding, they might be willing to put in additional hours of work and study. In the same vein, if a student doesn’t view themselves as intelligent enough to succeed, they might not see the extra work towards their goal as worthwhile.

An essential aspect of this is the idea of fixed intelligence vs. the growth theory of intelligence. After all, if a student thinks they can’t further their data, this will affect their academic efforts negatively because they don’t see as much potential for improvement from themselves.

Fluid Vs. Crystallized Intelligence

It is important to note that there are two different types of intelligence being referred to in this article. That is fluid intelligence vs. crystallized intelligence.

  • Crystallized intelligence is the intelligence that most methods agree can be learned. This type of intelligence is founded on knowledge. For example, if you were to memorize the dates of the first World War, this would be considered crystallized intelligence. Any learning in the past is deemed to be crystallized intelligence.
  • Fluid intelligence is what is argued over more often. This is the intelligence that involves thinking and reasoning. Solving a general problem or solving a puzzle are both examples of fluid intelligence.
fixed intelligence

Source: Natalie Foss

Fluid intelligence and crystallized intelligence don’t operate in entirely different spheres. Many times, students will find these types of intelligence equally important. A test that both asks a vocabulary definition and comes up with a way to use that phrase would use both forms of intelligence.

The Theory of Fixed Intelligence

First, there is the idea of fixed intelligence or a fixed mindset. This is the idea that certain traits that everyone has been set in stone. For instance, some students might have naturally high intelligence and others might have typically lower information and there’s nothing that can be done to change that.

This theory can be somewhat discouraging to students. If a student is struggling in a class or isn’t a good test taker, they can be very deterred from trying harder because they believe they are naturally “bad” at their levels or, even worse, think they aren’t smart enough for the classes they are taking.

The Growth Theory of Intelligence

Growth theory, on the other hand, is the idea that intelligence can be molded and formed throughout an individual’s life. This is, of course, much more inspiring to college students. After all, through this theory, everyone has an equal chance to succeed.

With this theory, if a student fails a test or needs to help with essay by essaypro service it isn’t a sign of innately low intelligence, it is a sign of them taking the necessary steps to learn and grow as a student.

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fixed intelligence

Source: Natalie Foss

What Proof Is There for the Growth Theory of Intelligence?

Some might find the growth theory of intelligence to be “hopeful thinking.” However, there are many reasons that this theory is not only possible but likely. Chief among them is the ability of someone to “exercise” their brain for enhanced cognitive abilities.

The ability to improve cognitive skills such as memory and focus prove that the way our brain functions isn’t hard set. Instead, it shows that it can be used to improve much like the way a muscle gets stronger if it is worked out.

What Can You Do to Improve Cognitive Function?

We just noted that an individual could improve some of the aspects of their cognitive function via mental exercises. To display the evidence behind this theory, let’s take a further look at some of these exercises and tricks and their purposes.

One example that you might have already heard of is that working on puzzles can help develop and improve your problem-solving skills. Problems such as crossword puzzles even help to improve your memory and might also keep Alzheimer’s and dementia at bay.

There are also certain lifestyle decisions that can affect your cognitive capability. A student might be brilliant but perform poorly in displays of both fluid and crystallized intelligence if they don’t get enough sleep.

What About IQ?

An idea that has been around since 1916 is the intelligence quotient, or IQ, test. The association with IQ is that someone takes the test and it tells their IQ for the rest of their life. However, theories are arising that this isn’t the case.


First and foremost, IQ can change. Especially in young children, IQ is somewhat volatile, but as you get older, it does become more stable. It’s also interesting to note that the population’s IQ as a whole is growing over time. It has been observed to rise about 3 points every decade.

Furthermore, there are many arguments that the IQ test is flawed. This argument follows the idea that a simple test on paper doesn’t capture the full capabilities of the human brain. Additionally, it doesn’t account for individuals who potentially don’t test well, and it doesn’t account for different styles of thinking.

The more recent growth theory can be inspiring to many students. No longer are they taught a method of thinking that some students have naturally higher intelligence than others and are more likely to find success. With this theory, hard work is more encouraged since it is more likely to yield noticeable and impressive results.

Mary Kucher