How the Growth Mindset Can Increase Cooperation

By Alex Shashkevich | November 16, 2016 | 0 comments

In a new study, researchers saw Jewish- and Palestinian-Israeli students cooperating better after a simple lesson.

Jewish-Israelis and Palestinian-Israelis have spent decades in conflict over disputed territories. The mutual distrust and skepticism have built to a point that the two groups struggle to work cooperatively on solving their issues.

But a Stanford-led research team of psychologists found that teaching Jewish-Israeli and Palestinian-Israeli teenagers that groups are generally capable of change—without ever mentioning a specific adversary—can significantly improve their ability to cooperate.

Study participants work together on an activity. Study participants work together on an activity.

Amit Goldenberg, a graduate student working with psychology professors Carol Dweck and James Gross, was lead author on the paper published in Social Psychological and Personality Science, along with co-authors Kinneret Endevelt, Eran Halperin, and Shira Ran of the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya, Israel.

“We found that people who believe societies and individuals are capable of change cooperate much better with each other,” Goldenberg said.

Dweck has spent decades studying how behaviors are affected by beliefs about capacity for change. Research from her lab has previously shown that students who believe their intelligence can be developed do better in school than students who believe their intelligence is fixed.

Several years ago, Dweck said, a former postdoctoral fellow, Eran Halperin, suggested that her lab’s ideas and research should be examined in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. So Halperin and his team launched a series of research projects. Halperin is now a professor at IDC in Herzliya.

One of their earlier studies showed that both Israelis and Palestinians expressed more favorable attitudes toward each other and were willing to compromise after they were presented with a news article arguing that groups could change.

“When you think people have fixed traits your job is to just figure them out and go from there,” Dweck said. “If you think people can develop and change, you don’t tend to make blanket judgments.”

The latest study was the team’s first attempt to bring Jewish-Israelis and Palestinian-Israelis physically together in order to test their ideas, Dweck said. The researchers conducted four sessions with 74 Jewish and 67 Palestinian-Israeli students, ages 13 and 14, from a Palestinian-Israeli school and a Jewish-Israeli school over three months.

Each school’s students were divided into two groups. Over the course of three sessions, one group was taught about people’s ability to change while the other group learned about ways of coping with stress. In the fourth session, the Jewish and Palestinian-Israeli students met and were separated into mixed teams of four to six participants. The groups then completed several tasks, which were used to measure the degree of their cooperation. In one of the tasks, the students used spaghetti, marshmallows, and tape to build the tallest tower they could in 10 minutes.

The study’s results showed that students who were taught the ideas about change built towers that were 59 percent higher and had more positive emotions toward each other in comparison to the groups in the control condition.

“We expected to see some change, but not such big changes,” Goldenberg said. “It’s much easier to see changes in people’s attitudes, but to actually see that these people are cooperating better is remarkable.”

Goldenberg and his colleagues said the content of the workshops used in the study could potentially produce positive outcomes if it were implemented in Israeli and Palestinian schools.

But more studies should be done to solidify the results of their research. Researchers point out that future experiments should include another group of students who aren’t taught anything before meeting, in order to see the full benefit of explaining people’s ability to change. Halperin, Goldenberg, and their team are currently conducting studies in adults, which they say is important in order to show how long the change in attitudes might last.

In the meantime, the team is excited about the implications of the latest study. “The Israeli-Palestinian conflict affects millions of lives every day,” Goldenberg said. “Any contribution you can make to this problem is progress.”

This article was originally published on Stanford News. Read the original article.

Tracker Pixel for Entry

Greater Good wants to know:
Do you think this article will influence your opinions or behavior?

  • Very Likely

  • Likely

  • Unlikely

  • Very Unlikely

  • Not sure

About The Author

Alex Shashkevich writes about humanities and social sciences at Stanford News Service. She previously worked as a reporter at the Chicago Tribune for over three years.


Like this article?

Here's what you can do:

blog comments powered by Disqus



Greater Good Events

The Greater Good Science Center Summer Institute for Educators 2017
Clark Kerr Campus, UC-Berkeley
Sunday, June 25 - Friday, June 30, 2017 OR Sunday, July 16 - Friday, July 21, 2017

The GGSC’s six-day Summer Institute equips education professionals with prosocial learning strategies, tools and processes that benefit both students and teachers.


Take a Greater Good Quiz!

How compassionate are you? How generous, grateful, or forgiving? Find out!


Watch Greater Good Videos

Jon Kabat-Zinn

Talks by inspiring speakers like Jon Kabat-Zinn, Dacher Keltner, and Barbara Fredrickson.


Greater Good Resources


Book of the Week

How Pleasure Works By Paul Bloom Bloom explores a broad range of human pleasures from food to sex to religion to music. Bloom argues that human pleasure is not purely an instinctive, superficial, sensory reaction; it has a hidden depth and complexity.

Is she flirting with you? Take the quiz and find out.
"It is a great good and a great gift, this Greater Good. I bow to you for your efforts to bring these uplifting and illuminating expressions of humanity, grounded in good science, to the attention of us all."  
Jon Kabat-Zinn

Best-selling author and founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program

thnx advertisement