Influencing Mindsets and Motivation in Procedural Skills Learning: Two Randomized Studies

David A. Cook, Becca L. Gas, David R. Farley, Matthew Lineberry, Nimesh D. Naik, Francisco J. Cardenas Lara, Anthony R. Artino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Objectives: An incremental (growth) theory of intelligence (mindset), compared with an entity (fixed) mindset, has been associated with improved motivation and performance. Interventions to induce incremental beliefs have improved performance on non-surgical motor tasks. We sought to evaluate the impact of 2 brief interventions to induce incremental beliefs in the context of learning a surgical task. Design: Two randomized experiments. Participants and setting: Secondary school students participating in medical simulation-based training activities at an academic medical center. Interventions: We created 4 instructional messages intended to influence mindsets (two 60-second videos in Study 1, 2 fabricated “journal articles” in Study 2). In each study, one message emphasized that ability improves with practice (incremental); the other emphasized that ability is fixed (entity). After reviewing their randomly-assigned message, participants completed a laparoscopic cutting task as many times as they desired. Measurements included performance (product quality, self-reported task, and completion time), task persistence (repetitions), and entity beliefs. Results: Two hundred and three students completed Study 1. Postevent entity beliefs (1 = lowest, 6 = highest) were similar between groups (incremental, 2.0vs entity, 2.0; p = 0.78). Contrary to hypothesis, the incremental video group demonstrated slower time (276vs 191 seconds; p < 0.0001), lower product quality (7.2vs 3.8mm deviation; p < 0.0001), and fewer task repetitions (1.4vs 1.8; p = 0.02). In Study 2, 113 participants provided outcomes related to mindset beliefs, but only 14 provided usable performance outcomes. Postevent entity beliefs were lower in the incremental article group (1.7vs 2.4; p < 0.0001). Task time (507vs 585 seconds; p = 0.40) and quality (7.1vs 7.5mm deviation; p = 0.85) were similar between groups. Conclusions: Brief motivational interventions can influence procedural performance and motivation. We need to better understand motivation and other affective influences on procedural skills learning. Mindset theory shows promise in this regard.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)652-663
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Surgical Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2019


  • Motivation
  • Patient Care
  • Simulation Training
  • achievement goals
  • personal differences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Education


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