When Carol Dweck was 11 years old and in the top class at her school in New York, she was taught by a Mrs Wilson, who used to seat her sixth-grade charges in IQ order, “smartest” at the front. “She believed that every point was meaningful — not just about intelligence but about character,” Dweck says. “And the kids who had the lower IQ were never given responsibilities like carrying the flag in assembly or even cleaning the blackboards.”

More than 60 years later, the experience is still vivid for Dweck — in part because it has informed and illustrated her work as a psychologist. Even at the time, she did not agree with Mrs Wilson’s idea “that the other people who happened to have somewhat lower scores on the test weren’t smart or worthy — I just rejected that completely”. But at the same time, the teacher “defined the game so strongly that I took on that framework”.

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