Nearly all human behavior is goal-directed. Throughout the life span, many of the important goals people pursue are achievement-related, such as educational and career goals. The ability to pursue these goals in an adaptive manner is essential for normal development, as they serve to meet basic and higher-order needs, ultimately contributing to emotional well-being. The proposed research focuses on people's beliefs regarding the nature of intelligence and how they may situationally facilitate or disrupt the pursuit of achievement goals and the development of motivation and emotional well-being. Research has found that individuals differ with respect to their beliefs regarding the malleability of intelligence. Entity theorists believe intelligence is limited and fixed, whereas incremental theorists believe it can be improved. This tradition of research has largely focused on the downstream consequences that result from endorsing one theory of intelligence or the other. Two important consequences are the achievement goals individuals adopt and the feedback they use to evaluate their competencies. Everyday pursuits, however, often do not conform to the goal preferences and expectations that arise from these beliefs. Indeed, achievement tasks and settings vary with respect to the goals that optimize achievement and the type of feedback they provide, which may result in frequent mismatches with the implicit theory people hold. The purpose of this proposal is to extend previous research by examining the consequences of Theory of Intelligence Fit (ToI Fit). That is, we intend to investigate the motivational, affective, and self-regulatory consequences of pursuing goals that are either congruent or incongruent with the theory of intelligence held. Two groups of experimental studies will examine fit between theories of intelligence and achievement goals (Group 1) and types of evaluative feedback (Group 2) in an effort to better understand the circumstances that contribute to adaptive and maladaptive goal pursuit.
The proposed research is designed to illuminate the situations that best maintain motivation, positive effect, and self-regulatory resources for different people. In contrast to past research that has highlighted the benefits of holding an incremental theory of intelligence (as compared to an entity theory), the proposed research will address the strengths and weaknesses of each implicit theory for coping with different situations. The findings should have implications for the development and optimization of achievement motivation, emotional well- being, and self-regulation.