How people think about their abilities and talents greatly influences how they learn and grow. Human flourishing seems to correspond intimately with a person’s mindset.
Research by psychologist Carol Dweck distinguishes between fixed and growth mindsets. People with a fixed mindset believe that their talents and attributes, such as intelligence or character, are pre-determined and unchanging. With this mindset, people tend to adopt limiting beliefs about what they can and cannot do. Often, a fixed mindset can lead people to avoid challenges, to feel threatened by others’ successes, and to “tune out” when there is an ethical transgression.
When people have a growth mindset, on the other hand, they believe that their skills and abilities can be developed. With a growth mindset, people see their mistakes and failures as an opportunity for learning. Such people are more likely to take on challenges, to respond well to criticism, and to grow from their endeavors regardless of their success.
The theory of ethical learners, developed by scholars Dolly Chugh and Mary Kern, applies these mindsets to the realm of ethics. As ethical learners, those with a growth mindset recognize their own bounded ethicality. They pursue “psychological literacy,” studying the cognitive biases and external pressures that limit their ethical decision-making. They also see their missteps as opportunities for growth and seek feedback, constantly striving to improve their ethical conduct.
So a growth mindset can encourage learning of all kinds. And having a growth mindset helps us develop the skills we need to become more effective ethical decision-makers.