Saying intelligence isn’t genetic makes us work harder, study says

You’re doing so well at work. Must be because you put in so much effort.

Are you feeling more motivated or intelligent now? Most of us would be – however much we slack off in reality. That’s according to a new study from Michigan State University, at least. Researchers found that telling people that hard work was the key to success made them perform better, whether there was any truth to the statement or not. They gave two groups of people two different articles, one of which said that intelligence is genetic, the other claiming that the genius of da Vinci and Einstein was ‘probably due to a challenging environment’.

The participants were then asked to complete basic computer tasks while their brain activity was recorded. The group who read that intelligence is genetic concentrated harder, but didn’t necessarily do better (maybe it was too much pressure). Those who’d read that intelligence was shaped by environmental factors, on the other hand, recovered more quickly from errors, with monitoring showing they had a more efficient brain response and did better on the tasks as time went on.

Earlier this year, scientists from Kings College, London found a gene that seems to be linked to intelligence. But it’s probably best if we don’t think too much about it, as believing that how clever we are is set from birth will probably only hamper our success. Hans Schroder, who led the Michigan team’s research, said, ‘Giving people messages that encourage learning and motivation may promote more efficient performance. In contrast, telling people that intelligence is genetically fixed may inadvertently hamper learning.’ So if you think I’m stupid, lie to me. I’ll only work harder as a result.

Image via  Army Medicine’s Flickr.

Diane Shipley