Is Mindset on the Wane?

Scanning of a human brain by X-rays

Mindset seems allied to the idea of cognitive behavioural therapy. The NHS classes CBT as: “…a talking therapy that can help you manage your problems by changing the way you think and behave.” If we accept that mindset theory is born from this notion, that by changing the way you think and behave you can manage your potential and over come problems, then a comment piece in last Friday’s Guardian might give us a moment for pause:

 Why CBT is Falling Out of Favour

In this article Oliver Burkeman refers to a paper citing findings that show CBT is roughly half as effective as it used to be. The reasons that this might be aren’t known but some educated guesses are: due to its popularity the number of inexperienced and/or incompetent therapists is on the increase. Another is ‘the placebo effect’, Burkeman puts it like this: “…if I believe that CBT, or any therapy, is likely to work, and it does, who’s to say if my beliefs were really the cause, rather than the therapy? Beliefs are an integral part of the process, not a rival explanation. The line between what I think is going on and what is going on starts to blur. Truly convince yourself that a psychological intervention is working and by definition it’s working.” And then convince yourself that it isn’t working, or the theory isn’t correct…

Burkeman points out that: “Every era needs its miracle cure…” that is, he adds, “until research gradually reveals it to be as flawed as everything else.”

This struck me as something that could be said about, what is fast becoming ubiquitous in education, ‘Mindset’. Although Burkeman points out mindfulness I feel that is still hovering around the edges of education, whereas Mindset is centre stage, our ‘miracle cure’ if you will. I wonder if it will, like CBT, soon start to be on the wane. And if this were to happen would it be because our children convince themselves that nothing is really changing as mindset is a placebo and really they aren’t that good at stuff no matter how hard they try, so why not give up? Or, because it is everywhere, will all the teacher ‘therapists’ know what they are doing and will they all be as effective as each other?

I don’t know. The premise of this piece might be completely flawed, just because there is some evidence that the effectiveness of CBT is on the wane it does not mean that Mindset is or, indeed, ever will be. I just thought I’d ask the question.

3 thoughts on “Is Mindset on the Wane?

  1. “Is Mindset on the Wane? ”

    Of course not

    It isn’t the miracle cure, but then there isn’t a miracle cure.Just another one of th erange of useful tools in the box.


  2. There was always a large amount of scepticism within the psychological community about the long term impact of CBT and its overblown claims, particularly when CBT therapies were placed into neat 6 week chunks in the NHS with results expected regardless of the complexity of the patient’s issues. But to link CBT to mindsets is to massively oversimplify both processes. Mindsets isn’t about using language to change the learner’s behaviour, but also about making shifts in teacher’s mindsets and attitudes and school cultures – both psychological, cultural and environmental.


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