Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Teaching teens that people can change reduces aggression in school

Date:
February 12, 2013
Source:
Society for Research in Child Development
Summary:
In eight studies involving more than 1,600 diverse 8th-10th grade students, researchers show that teenagers who believe people can't change react more aggressively to a peer conflict than those who think people can change. Following these studies, researchers developed a brief intervention that taught teens that people have the potential to change. The intervention reduced the teens' tendency to see the offense as having been done on purpose, and reduced their desire for aggressive revenge.

Teenagers from all walks of life who believe people can't change react more aggressively to a peer conflict than those who think people can change. And teaching them that people have the potential to change can reduce these aggressive reactions.

Related Articles


Those are the findings of a new study published in the journal Child Development. The research was conducted at the University of Texas at Austin, Emory University, and Stanford University.

Prior research has shown that children who grow up in hostile environments, such as high-violence neighborhoods, are more likely to interpret even minor offenses toward them as having been done on purpose. This interpretation leads them to respond aggressively. The researchers who carried out this study sought to determine whether teens in any environment (rich or poor, violent or nonviolent) could develop a belief -- that people's character traits are fixed and can't change -- that led them to react aggressively.

"Our past research showed that believing people's traits are fixed leads teens to think the world is full of 'good' and 'bad' people, with nobody in between; they are then quick to classify people as one or the other," according to David Yeager, assistant professor of developmental psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, the study's lead investigator. "In our new research, we found that teens in this 'fixed' mindset, even after a minor offense like getting bumped in the hall or being left out of a game of catch, relegated peers to the 'bad person' group, decided that they had offended on purpose, and want aggressive revenge."

Yeager and his colleagues first conducted eight studies with more than 1,600 eighth through tenth graders of different races and ethnicities in both wealthy and low-income schools around the United States. Teens reported their beliefs about change -- for instance, whether bullies and victims are types of people who can't change. Then they responded to situations of conflict or exclusion. Across the board, teens who believed people can't change were more likely to think the offense was done on purpose and then desire aggressive revenge -- for instance, saying they would want to "hurt them," 'get back at them," or "punish them."

Next, the researchers developed and tested a relatively brief intervention that taught the teens that people have the potential to change. Students read an article about the plasticity of the brain, read notes from older students describing how people are capable of change, and then wrote notes to future students on this topic to make the message stick. Then teens responded to an offense. The intervention reduced the teens' tendency to see the offense as having been done on purpose, and reduced their desire for aggressive revenge, even eight months after the students took part.

A related study by some of the same authors, which was published recently in Child Development, showed that a longer version of the program could reduce actual behavioral aggression at a low-income urban public high school over an extended period.

"Usually when the public thinks about aggression, we mainly think about violent environments as causes," Yeager notes. "And then we think that by the high school years, this aggression is deeply ingrained. We don't often realize that changing a simple belief can also affect aggression.

"Our findings may lead to more broad thinking about the factors that contribute to youth aggression and about methods to prevent it, even in populations not typically thought of as at risk for hostile bias," suggests Yeager.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Society for Research in Child Development. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. David S. Yeager, Adriana S. Miu, Joseph Powers, Carol S. Dweck. Implicit Theories of Personality and Attributions of Hostile Intent: A Meta-Analysis, an Experiment, and a Longitudinal Intervention. Child Development, 2013; DOI: 10.1111/cdev.12062

Cite This Page:

Society for Research in Child Development. "Teaching teens that people can change reduces aggression in school." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 February 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130212100558.htm>.
Society for Research in Child Development. (2013, February 12). Teaching teens that people can change reduces aggression in school. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130212100558.htm
Society for Research in Child Development. "Teaching teens that people can change reduces aggression in school." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130212100558.htm (accessed October 24, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Friday, October 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Academic Scandal Shocks UNC

Academic Scandal Shocks UNC

AP (Oct. 23, 2014) A scandal involving bogus classes and inflated grades at the University of North Carolina was bigger than previously reported, a new investigation found. (Oct. 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Working Mother Getaway: Beaches Turks & Caicos

Working Mother Getaway: Beaches Turks & Caicos

Working Mother (Oct. 22, 2014) Feast your eyes on this gorgeous family-friendly resort. Video provided by Working Mother
Powered by NewsLook.com
What Your Favorite Color Says About You

What Your Favorite Color Says About You

Buzz60 (Oct. 22, 2014) We all have one color we love to wear, and believe it or not, your color preference may reveal some of your character traits. In celebration of National Color Day, Krystin Goodwin (@kyrstingoodwin) highlights what your favorite colors may say about you. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

Newsy (Oct. 21, 2014) A medical team has for the first time given a man the ability to walk again after transplanting cells from his brain onto his severed spinal cord. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins