Education and Human Sciences, College of (CEHS)


Date of this Version



Champagne, C. (2015). Children's implicit beliefs about intelligence (Master's thesis).


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts, Major: Educational Psychology, Under the Supervision of Kathleen Moritz Rudasill. Lincoln, Nebraska: August, 2015

Copyright (c) 2015 Carly R. Champagne


Young children are commonly perceived as highly optimistic and confident, and therefore seldom arouse concern as to how they are impacted by academic failure. However, there is evidence to suggest that young children can indeed be negatively affected by failure experiences. Implicit theories of intelligence can provide individuals with a framework by which to perceive failure, though little is known about when these theories begin to develop. The current study explores whether children as young as three and a half to four years of age demonstrate patterns indicative of incremental or entity theories of intelligence as a response to challenge following failure.

Children worked on a series of puzzles, some of which were impossible to solve. Children then chose puzzles to do again and provided reasons for their choices. Procedures were adapted from Smiley and Dweck (1994), with an added feedback condition of effort or ability. Descriptive comparisons confirmed the hypotheses that children would differ in their approach to challenge following failure; children who chose to approach challenge more often chose insoluble puzzles and those who avoided challenge more often chose soluble puzzles. In addition, challenge approach children expressed less performance concern, negative self-evaluation, and disengagement than children who avoided challenge. Finally, children who received ability related feedback more often chose soluble puzzles than those who received effort feedback. This study suggests that even at three and half years old, children react differently to achievement related information. It is possible that at this time, children are in the process of developing implicit theories of intelligence that could direct their future cognitions, affect, and behavior in the classroom.

Advisor: Kathleen Moritz Rudasill