This study tested the hypothesis that conceptions of ability affect self-regulatory processes and the acquisition rate of a perceptual-motor skill. Subjects performed a rotary pursuit task under induced cognitive sets that task performance reflected inherent aptitude or acquirable skill. Their perceived self-efficacy, affective self-reactions, and performance attainments were measured over a series of trials. Subjects who performed the task under the inherent-aptitude conception of ability displayed no growth in perceived self-efficacy across phases, negative self-reactions to performances, low interest in the activity, and a limited level of skill development. In contrast, those who performed the task under the conception of ability as an acquirable skill displayed growth in perceived self-efficacy, positive self-reactions to their performances, widespread interest in the activity, and a high level of skill acquisition. The stronger the positive self-reactions, the greater the subsequent performance attainments.
The authors are with the Department of Psychology, Building 420, Jordan Hall, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305-2130.