Trent N. Cash

Ph.D. Student at Carnegie Mellon University

The (Opportunity) Cost of Growth Mindset

Collaborators: Daniel M. Oppenheimer; Brett Nyman


Individuals with Growth Mindsets believe that their skills and knowledge are malleable, and thus can be improved through practice and persistence. In contrast, individuals with Fixed Mindsets believe that their skills are at least partially pre-determined, and thus can only be improved so much before they reach their personal limit. Over the last three decades, researchers have demonstrated that individuals with Growth Mindsets outperform individuals with Fixed Mindsets in numerous domains. However, relatively little research has been conducted to explore the boundary conditions of the superiority of Growth Mindsets over Fixed Mindsets. One potential downside of Growth Mindset is that its emphasis on persistence could lead individuals to overpersist on tasks for which opportunity costs for time are high and giving up on a task (so that more time can be dedicated to a different task) could be an optimal strategy. To explore this possible "cost" of having a Growth Mindset, we are seeking to answer the following questions:
  1. Do individuals high in Growth Mindset persist for too long on tasks in which the opportunity cost for time is high?
  2. Do individuals with Fixed Mindsets outperform individuals with Growth Mindsets on tasks  in which the opportunity cost for time is high? 
  3. Do individuals high in Growth Mindset (over-)persist on impossible tasks?
  4. Are there certain professions in which having a Fixed Mindset may be superior to having a Growth Mindset because the job requires an individual to focus on opportunity costs?
This is an early stage, exploratory project! If you have any feedback, I'd love to hear your thoughts! Please feel free to email me at

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