Effects of Peer Growth Mindset and Social Comparison on Adolescents’ Learning Outcomes
Children’s belief in the malleability of intelligence, known as growth mindset, has been shown to predict numerous academic outcomes. Much attention has focused on the role of parents and teachers in the socialization of growth mindsets, while less research has examined children’s peers. The influence of peers on children’s academic functioning is well-documented, particularly during adolescence when children spend more time with their peers and look to them as reference points in order to gauge their own academic competence. However, such social comparison processes may be detrimental to students’ academic self-perceptions and achievement, and their impact may depend on students’ implicit beliefs about intelligence. Although there is growing attention on the role of peers in mindset socialization as well as past literature demonstrating the effect of peer mindsets on students’ learning outcomes, the simultaneous consideration of peers’ beliefs about intelligence and social comparison influences has yet to be studied. This dissertation investigated the interplay between these two constructs and their effects on adolescents’ motivational and academic outcomes using an online experimental paradigm to manipulate perceptions of peers’ mindsets and competence. Participants (N = 120) heard statements reflecting different types of mindsets from purported peers, completed a series of surveys and activities, and received feedback on their and their peers’ performance via a virtual leaderboard to induce social comparison. Results showed various main effects of the growth mindset and social comparison manipulations, but no interactive effects. Regardless of social comparison condition, growth mindset peers increased adolescents’ learning conducive perceptions of themselves and both their self-reported and objective learning outcomes, while social comparison dampened learning conducive perceptions. The effects of peer growth mindset were partially explained by perceptions of peers’ competence and identification with higher performing peers, a positive strategy when faced with a social comparison scenario. The findings further our understanding of peers in the transmission of intelligence beliefs and subsequent learning outcomes, which may inform future efforts geared toward improving adolescents’ academic success.