Как вы назовёте помощь от ребёнка, будет влиять на то, как он будет помогать

Как вы назовёте помощь от ребёнка, будет влиять на то, как он будет помогать

by Евгений Волков -
Number of replies: 1

Growth mindset doesn’t only apply to learning – it’s better to encourage your child to help, than to be “a helper”


Children primed to think of themselves as “helpers” were more discouraged when things didn’t go to plan

By Emma Young

According to the Mindset Theory, if you tell a child repeatedly that they’re smart, it makes them less willing to push themselves when they get stuck on an intellectual challenge, presumably because failure would threaten their self-image of being a “smart kid”. For this reason, effort-based praise – rewarding kids for “working hard” rather than “being smart” – is widely recommended (though it’s not the same for adults). But does a similar effect occur in the social sphere? What if you ask a child – as so many parents and surely teachers do – to “be a helper” as if it’s a category that you either belong to or you don’t? 

Earlier research has found that young kids are more likely to try to help others when they are asked to “be helpers” instead of “to help”. But as Emily Foster-Hanson and her fellow researchers at New York University note, “Setbacks and difficulties are common features of children’s experience throughout development and into adulthood,” so it’s important to examine the effects of category labelling – like “being smart” or “being a helper” – when things go wrong for the child. And in their new paper, published in Child Development, they find that setbacks are more detrimental to a child labelled “a helper” than a child asked “to help”.


The researchers recruited a total of 139 four- and five-year olds who were visiting the Children’s Museum of Manhattan and tested each of them alone in a private room in the museum. At the start, half of them were primed with a short introduction to think of themselves as “a helper” (for example, “when someone needs to pick things up, you could be a helper”) and the others to think of themselves as someone who could “help” (“when someone needs to pick things up, you could help”). 

Next, the researchers gave the children various theoretical helping scenarios to act out with puppets, one of which represented them, either “helping” or “being a helper” (the wording was varied in the experimenter’s script according to the child’s experimental group). Afterwards the children were quizzed about their attitudes towards helping and the results suggested that, after role-playing encountering a setback when helping (such as accidentally knocking over a cup of crayons when tidying them up), “helpers” had more negative attitudes toward helping than those who’d “helped”.

For a second study, on a fresh group of children, the researchers investigated the effect of real setbacks. These kids were set up to fail. In one scenario, for example, an experimenter prompted the child to help (or be a helper) by putting away a box that was on the table. If the child didn’t immediately go to do it, they got a succession of prompts, until they did. But the box had a loose bottom, and it was full of ping pong balls, which fell onto the floor when the child picked it up. In another example, a child was prompted to put away a toy truck, which had in fact been disassembled and then had the parts put back together so that it looked intact, but as soon as it was picked up, it fell apart. 

The researchers found that after experiencing these setbacks, the “helper” kids were less likely to voluntarily go and help in two other fairly demanding helping situations (such as going into another part of the room to put away bricks into bags) than the kids in the “helping” group. “This pattern is broadly consistent with the idea that children who had been told to ‘be helpers’ but then made mistakes were overall less motivated to help than the children who had been told ‘to help’,” the researchers write. 

The helper kids were, however, more likely to go on to voluntarily help with an easy task that involved bending down to pick up dropped crayons that they could then use. This was a low-effort task with a high degree of success. Perhaps they were taking advantage of a quick, virtually guaranteed way to restore a little of their dented “helper” image. 

The researchers also found that children asked to be helpers – and who subsequently chose not to help on either of the more effortful tasks – afterwards gave lower self-evaluations of their helping abilities than children in the “helping” group who had also declined to help with those tasks. This suggests that the helper group were now thinking in a black-and-white way about helper status and helping abilities. 

“These data indicate that categorical language can have detrimental consequences for children’s behaviour, even in non-academic domains and even when the categorical input is not evaluative in content,” the researchers write. (In these studies, no one talked about being a “good helper” and there was no evaluation of this behaviour.) 

Do these scenarios accurately mirror real life? After the setbacks, the experimenter always responded in a neutral fashion, saying without emotion, “Oh well, I guess I can put those away later”, for instance. A parent or a teacher might respond differently, telling the child not to worry, and pointing out that it was a really tricky task. Might these kinds of encouraging, comforting responses ameliorate or even eradicate the effects of a setback on future helping? Only further research will tell. 

Still, this work does, as the researchers write, “provide an important caveat to previous messages to parents and teachers about how to use language to encourage pro-sociality in early childhood.” 

Asking Children to “Be Helpers” Can Backfire After Setbacks

Emma Young (@EmmaELYoung) is Staff Writer at BPS Research Digest

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In reply to Евгений Волков

Взрослые реагируют на оценки своей деятельности иначе. чем дети

by Евгений Волков -

“Growth mindset” theory doesn’t translate directly from kids to adults – telling an adult they are a “hard worker” can backfire



By Emma Young

The way parents and teachers praise children is known to influence not only their future performance, but how they feel about the malleability of intelligence. If a child has done well, focusing positive comments on their efforts, actions and strategies (saying, for example, “good job” or “you must have tried really hard”) is preferable to saying “you’re so smart”, in part because process-centred praise is thought to encourage kids to interpret setbacks as opportunities to grow, rather than as threats to their self-concept. In contrast, a kid who’s led to believe she succeeds because she’s “intelligent” may not attempt a difficult challenge, in case she fails.

Now – and somewhat remarkably, given all the praise and growth mindset research conducted on children – a new study, led by Rachael Reavis at Earlham College, Indiana, US, published the Journal of Genetic Psychology, claims to be the first to test the effects of different types of praise on how adults feel after failure. 


The researchers recruited 156 adults via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk website. After completing a set of six easy visual pattern problems, which they were given up to two minutes to solve, they were all informed: “You did better than the majority of adults!” But then the feedback varied.

About a third were told that, based on the pattern of their results, they had been classified as “in the high intelligence group” (person-focused ability feedback); about a third were told they had been classified as “the kind of person who works hard” (person-focused effort feedback – they were a “hard worker”) and about a third were told they had been classified as “working hard on these questions” (process-focused effort feedback – they had worked hard).

All participants were then given a set of 12 difficult problems (which timed out after 3.5 minutes), and no matter how well they did, all were told that their performance was “worse than most adults”. The researchers were interested in how the earlier feedback would affect the participants’ performance and enjoyment on the tasks, and especially how they would interpret their apparent failure at the final set of difficult problems. 

Based partly on previous findings involving children, the researchers expected that being told you’re a “hard worker” would be the most beneficial kind of praise or feedback, as it implies that the person typically puts in a lot of effort. (And while this form of praise is person-centred, it focuses on behaviour, rather than on intrinsic ability.)

In fact, the type of feedback participants received after the easy task did not affect their performance on the difficult problems, relative to their performance on the first. Meanwhile, it was the “hard worker” group who said they enjoyed the difficult set of problems the least (the other two groups did not differ from each other on this); they also believed they had been less successful on the tasks than those in the other groups.

Finally, when the participants indicated, on a scale of 0 to 10, to what extent they attributed their poor performance at the final task to lack of effort or to lack of intelligence (as well as to eight other factors that were included to obscure the true purpose of the study), there were no group differences for effort, but as expected, those in the “worked hard” group were significantly less likely to attribute their failure to their level of intelligence than those in the “high intelligence group”. However, against expectations, the “hard worker” group actually blamed their low intelligence just as much as the “high intelligence” participants. 

As the researchers note, “Few of the results demonstrated with children were replicated.”

Why might this be? 

It’s possible that adults believe that telling someone they’re a hard worker is something positive to say when you can’t plausibly say that they’re smart or gifted. When I think back to my own childhood, there were awards at school for “good work” and also for “hard work”, and, among the kids, a “good work” award was seen as being the bigger achievement. In contrast, at my children’s primary school, in the light of the findings on process-focused praise, rewards are focused entirely on effort. However, it’s also standard for a child who typically puts in a lot of effort to be called a “hard worker”. 

For children today, this may perhaps still be beneficial. For adults, who grew up in a different time, “being told one is a ‘hard worker’ may elicit feelings of inadequacy, which undermine positive perceptions of the task,” the researchers write. “Future work should investigate how both children and adults interpret these types of praise.”

Emma Young (@EmmaELYoung) is Staff Writer at BPS Research Digest

Effort as Person-Focused Praise: “Hard Worker” Has Negative Effects for Adults After a Failure

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