The Science Behind Student Stress
A new study shows how a growth mindset helps students cope with academic setbacks.
By Youki Terada
August 24, 2018
The researchers analyzed the stress levels of students at two high schools in central Texas during an especially stressful time—the transition into high school. Students completed daily surveys asking about the stress they experienced, and daily saliva samples were collected to measure their cortisol levels.
A majority of these students—68 percent—experienced a drop in grades in the first semester and reported feeling stressed as a result. In how they handled that stress, two clear groups emerged. Students who believed that intelligence can be developed—a growth mindset—were more likely to see setbacks as temporary, and not only had lower overall cortisol levels but were able to return to lower levels shortly after a setback. Students who believed that intelligence is fixed, on the other hand, felt threatened by the setback and had trouble thinking about solutions.