Conceptions of ability: Nature and impact across content areas

Patricia Louise Linehan, Purdue University


The purpose of the present study was to investigate how young adults' conceptions about ability might be related to individual differences in academic achievement motivation. A body of research on conceptions of ability has shown two orientations toward ability. Students with an Incremental orientation believe ability (intelligence) to be malleable, a quality that increases with effort. Students with an Entity orientation believe ability to be nonmalleable, a fixed quality of self that does not increase with effort. In the present study, conceptions of ability were shown to be more domain specific, at least in math, art, and English, than was previously acknowledged in the literature. In factor analysis, math, art, English, and global conception of ability items clearly formed four distinct factors. In the present study, Incremental orientations were associated with higher grades and higher academic engagement, among other positive, adaptive outcomes. Entity orientations were associated with less adaptive behaviors and outcomes. Results suggest conceptions of ability may be redundant to the variables value, confidence, and self-efficacy in predicting individual differences in achievement behaviors.




Schunk, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Educational psychology

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