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UBC Theses and Dissertations

It's OK to feel frustrated : how social comparison and motivational beliefs influence students' self-regulation Lisaingo, Simon


During the learning process, frustration can be a significant obstacle for students, particularly in a classroom, when learners perceive that their peers can solve a problem more easily. The processes and beliefs that enable students to control their thoughts and actions to achieve personal goals are referred to as self-regulation. Dweck (1986; 2000) posited that the beliefs individuals have about their abilities, in particular about their intelligence, described as either a fixed or growth mindset, may mediate their use of self-regulatory strategies. An extension of Dweck’s research suggests that individuals also have beliefs about the amount of mental resources they have for exerting self- control (i.e., willpower) that are described as either limited or unlimited (Job, Dweck, & Walton, 2010). The purpose of the current study was to investigate how students’ beliefs about intelligence and willpower influenced their self-regulation during a potentially frustrating task with opportunities for social comparison. Participants in this study were public school students, aged 11 to 13 (N = 64; 40 female, 24 male), who were asked to solve puzzles in pairs. One student was given a solvable puzzle and the other was given an unsolvable puzzle. Students were not made aware of differences in the difficulty of the puzzle task before solving it. Questionnaires, observations, and performance on a cognitive task were used as measures of their beliefs, behaviours, emotions, and self- control. Data were analyzed using correlations, independent samples t-tests, and analysis of variance. Results indicated that the implemented experimental procedures induced frustration: students in the unsolvable condition displayed and self-reported greater frustration than students in the solvable condition. In addition, results indicated that frustration does not necessarily induce self-control depletion: no statistical difference was found in students’ self-control between conditions. However, students’ self- regulation was influenced by their beliefs about intelligence: students who viewed their intelligence as fixed demonstrated significantly greater self-control depletion than students who viewed their intelligence as capable of growing. Finally, results suggested that the concept of willpower may not be fully understood by students at this age: no significant results were found for the influence of students’ beliefs about willpower.

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