In a study currently in press at “Psychological Science”, Paul O’Keefe from Yale and two Stanford colleagues report on a series of related studies into beliefs about passionate interests and their impact on students. They set up experiments to find out if it matters whether you believe that your passionate interests are already ‘in your genes’, just waiting to be discovered – or rather that you are able to develop passionate interests in a wide range of topics, if you set your mind to it.
Three of the experiments tested students’ openness to new interests in correlation with their beliefs about fixed or developed interests, one on how this basic belief correlates with the motivation (or kick) students expect to get from their interest, and the fifth on students’ resilience to carry on even if their interest was requiring an effort and offered frustration.
They did indeed find such correlation and their bottom line is that teachers should be weary to tell students “Find your passion”. Telling them “Develop your passion and be prepared to work on it” may offer a better contribution to student success.
The authors sketch in interesting parallel with love relationships: if you expect that finding the true love means heaven for the rest of your days, you’re probably also more likely to give up when the going gets tougher.