"I don't battle anymore! I uplift motherfuckers!" - GZA
Monday, January 14, 2008,3:15 AM
How Rap Cat Made It Into This Headline
As old ad agencies try to get a grip on their future, the new guerrilla ad guys think they’ve got it all figured out.

So much depends on the Rap Cat, a stuffed animal purchased online for $17.99, dressed in an infant’s basketball jersey, and yanked with fishing line out the door of the Don Juan bodega on Forsyth and Broome Streets over and over again. It was February when the film was shot, and crammed into the Don Juan were maybe twenty people from Amalgamated, the ad agency that had been working on Rap Cat for nearly a year. All around them were writers and producers, cameramen and a puppeteer, and the woman who asks passersby to walk into traffic so Rap Cat can do his scene.

Since then, it’s been a Cinderella story for Rap Cat, and for little shops like Amalgamated. Rap Cat is a genuine phenom, based on a simple joke: He’s a cat, he raps. Born in a throwaway scene in a TV ad for Checkers, a drive-through fry-and-burger chain, Rap Cat took off when a user called grandefutbol24 posted the ad on YouTube. It was a marketer’s dream, of course, spawning many thousands of voluntary viewings. And then Rap Cat went “viral,” with all the agglomeration of style, form, meaning, and nonsense that has come to characterize an Internet movement. Fans started making their own Rap Cat videos and posting pictures of themselves dancing like Rap Cat. They uploaded videos of their own live cats rapping and filmed themselves calling up strangers and meow-rapping repeatedly and generally applied all the random intellect of the mass mind to the concept of a rapping cat. Today’s project is the music video. An album, ringtones, and merchandise are all in the works.

The shoot was a long dreary process of scooting Rap Cat out the door again and again, and the day went very late, but it meant Amalgamated could try once again to demand the attention of users like sythblade22, psycotikbastard, and fishbucket–head. And they succeeded. Five months later, fishbuckethead is one of more than 838,654 users so far to visit YouTube and watch the video. He added his thoughts, which read, “dgbgffjf gfgfgjgfgfddsdgfghhghgjglfglgf.” It might be gibberish, or it might be an ironic comment on the literacy rates among rapping puppets. Or add a few dollar signs and an exclamation point, and you have a pretty good description of advertising in general, as an industry gropes to figure out the collapse of one medium and the rise of the next.

Step from a crappy elevator into a loft and you are at the headquarters of Amalgamated, but you could be at any of the little agencies that have sprung up in the city in the last few years. They’ve slipped like hermit crabs into the shells of studios and galleries and other inspiring spaces, mostly in Soho, sometimes in the teens, only rarely (as in the case of Amalgamated, which is in the West Thirties) farther up, and in general have adopted the vibe of an Internet start-up, circa 1996.

The very oldest appeared at the tail end of that boom, but most started in the last three years, arriving now at some Malthusian spawning frenzy. Their numbers relate directly to the rise of a true boom in Internet ad spending, as corporations retune their strategies in a once-in-a-generation way. The Internet currently represents a little more than 6 percent of a $149.6 billion ad market, and it’s the only fast-growing sector of an otherwise shrinking business, going up 20 to 30 percent annually in the U.S. and faster abroad. Moreover, the field is wide open.

It’s altogether enough to tempt you to quit whatever you’re doing and start your own mini-agency, and it would probably be a good idea to do so. You’ll need a quirky name. Fifties-style monikers like Ogilvy & Mather, Wieden + Kennedy, and J. Walter Thompson are on the way out, as are initials, making DDB Worldwide, BBDO, and JWT, as J. Walter Thompson belatedly rechristened itself in 2005, seem dated. Most of New York’s micro-shops, instead, seem to have stolen their names from dweeby bands trying to cut their own vinyl in Brooklyn: Besides Amalgamated, there’s Anomaly, the Barbarian Group, Big Spaceship, Campfire, Droga5, Deep Focus, Mother, Taxi, and Toy, just to list a few.

A rush on talent has followed. Salaries for digital creative directors rose 60 percent nationwide in 2006, from an average of $115,000 to $185,000, according to a survey by the recruiter TalentZoo. “We’re trying to hire two people right now,” says Charles Rosen, “and we cannot find them.” Rosen is one of the co-founders of Amalgamated, which started with six people in 2003 and has just hired its 40th employee. “People who were juniors when we left Cliff Freeman, where some of us used to work, want $250,000 or $300,000 now. Good solid people are looking for half a million dollars. Headhunters will say, ‘We have a great team for you,’ and we’re like, They were our interns! They’re, like, 8 years old! They can’t be a creative director—they don’t even shave yet!”

Rosen, who is 40, is sitting amid a scene of abundant expansion and disarray. One of his friends told him once that he looks like the new Bond, except much rounder and much balder. He says he’ll take it. Cables are everywhere, and there’s blue tape on the floor where the cubicles are going to go. They’ve just expanded, again, and they haven’t even had time to install the high-end espresso machine. On the table in front of him are stacked magazines and a copy of Fredric Jameson’s Marxism and Form, surely a plant to impress visitors. “No, that’s someone’s,” says Rosen. “We have, like, five Ph.D.’s around here.” Around him, his 39 hands all seem bustling and happy and unaware of the class struggle. They should be, what with their bubbly salaries, an agency-provided summer house on the Jersey shore, and a winter ski house up at Stowe.

Amalgamated worked with Deep Focus, another small agency, on their highest-profile campaign to date, for Court TV’s Parco, P.I. It started last summer with a billboard on Houston Street, one that read in block letters:

Hi Steven,
Do I have your attention now?
I know all about her, you dirty, sneaky, immoral, unfaithful, poorly-endowed slimeball. Everything’s caught on tape.
Your (soon-to-be-ex) Wife, Emily.
P.S. I paid for this billboard from OUR joint bank account.

Gawker and many New Yorkers and whoever else cared to check soon stumbled on a blog by “That Girl Emily,” which gathered a million hits in a few days. At Deep Focus, a copywriter spent weeks playing Emily, logging entries and answering e-mails. She crafted a love story that started months before the billboard went up and ended with “14 Days of Wrath,” an elaborately staged retribution that included a BMW spray-painted I HOPE IT WAS WORTH IT getting towed around New York, and an actress tossing “Steven” ’s belongings out of an SUV near Bryant Park. The events were filmed and slipped onto YouTube and posted under titles like “Angry Wife Rampage!” That one gathered 284,275 views.

Deep Focus was started in 2002 by Ian Schafer, a 32-year-old veteran of the first Internet boom who’d worked at Miramax for three years. He now has more than 70 employees, and just moved from Dumbo to the West Village. He’s run the online work for The Sopranos and Nike’s rollout of the LeBron sneaker, and his campaign for Entourage featured an “interview” with agent Ari Gold in which visitors were granted a personalized tongue-lashing. Schafer keeps a family tree of the conglomerate agencies on the wall in his office, so he knows who’s calling to offer to buy him. He and the other shops get calls like that a few times a month.

Perhaps the most successful campaign to come out of the New York agencies was created by Droga5 for the hip-hop clothing line Ecko Unltd. In the spring of 2006, Droga’s first client, Mark Ecko, hired the agency to create a short in which mock commandos in backpacks tag Air Force One with the company’s STILL FREE graffiti logo. It’s a little masterwork of the faux underground, shot in infrared with a cheap camera, and so convincing that the Pentagon had to issue multiple denials that the event had happened. (It looked amateurish, but that video cost nearly $400,000—$150,000 went to repaint an old 747, and the director’s day rate was $25,000.) Droga “seeded” it in May 2006, sending it to counterculture Websites, and he claims that, with media coverage, the video generated more than 115 million impressions. By comparison, a Super Bowl ad draws 93 million viewers, half of whom are mindlessly staring into a bowl of Cheetos, and that 30 seconds can cost well over $2 million.

Jason Deland, a partner at Anomaly, yet another new small shop in Soho, collects quotes about the current disarray in advertising. One of his favorites is from A. G. Lafley, the CEO of Procter & Gamble, year after year one of the biggest buyers of advertising in the United States: “We need a new model. It does not exist. No one else has one yet. But we need to get going now.” (Bob Garfield, who writes a column for Advertising Age and co-hosts NPR’s “On the Media,” calls this “the chaos scenario.”) DeLand’s other quotes veer deep into the fog of adspeak, but their message is the same: The ad world is a forest on fire, and these shops are a bit like those mushrooms that pop up after the inferno.

The telltale numbers run in the papers almost every day, or on Google, if that’s where you get your news. Television is in retreat. For those who do continue to endure TV, digital video recorders are killing ads. NBC, admitting its model was in distress, announced in October that it would cut its news and programming budget by $750 million and 700 jobs. Budweiser, Pepsi, and other big marketers, anxiously watching that audience drain away, have started what are essentially their own television channels online, providing their own programs for their own customers. Newspaper ad revenues and circulation are similarly riding an alpine slide.

For marketers, all this amounts to the disappearance of a readily available mass audience. The Internet audience is far more fragmented, picking content in nearly random ways, and the barriers to creation have dropped as well. You could be a kid with a guitar or a team at a 12,000-person agency, and you have about the same chances of mass success on YouTube. The odds might even be slightly in favor of the kid with the guitar, especially if he could play like funtwo, who has racked up 23 million views for his version of Pachelbel’s Canon.

The threat to the traditional agency model, with a stable of “creatives” trained to provide print, radio, and television ads to a passive audience, is obvious. If you’re a big marketer, why would you hire an enormous staff at great expense when you could have somebody like those guys who made the funny JibJab video about Kerry and Bush, the one that everyone saw and loved, for relative pennies? Budweiser asked itself the same question, and hired the guys who created it for the brand’s new Bud.TV “network.” Or you could swing by some cool shop in Soho. The little ad shops, in a way, are just glorified and more corporate-friendly versions of those geeks coming up with stuff in their bedrooms, and it turns out it’s a great way to make an ad.

Which may be why they are now competing against enormous marketing and advertising agencies, all of whom are starting their own little hot shops. For some of the larger agencies to appear small and fresh and full of new ideas would seem an insurmountable challenge. One of the biggest, for example, is DDB Worldwide. It has been around for nearly 60 years, it has 10,000 employees, and it is just one part of Omnicom Group, the world’s largest marketing and communications holding company. Omnicom also owns ad firms like BBDO, TBWA, and GSD&M. (Even the name “Omnicom Group” sounds like it was invented for a movie about an all-engulfing, soul-crushing corporation.) If a trend looks promising, it is no problem for Omnicom to open up an office, give it a kooky name, and see what happens. So DDB’s “little” Internet shop, Tribal DDB Worldwide, appeared in 1998 and now has 38 offices, 1,000 employees, and, with clients like Philips Norelco, Pepsi, and Exxon, about $160 million a year in revenue.

It doesn’t seem a fair fight until you visit their HQ, which is actually on Madison Avenue. It’s a typical cubicle penitentiary, with that weird polymer smell of industrial wall-to-wall carpeting. You wait in a truly windowless waiting room. This is no Soho loft.

But, of course, it is not as bad as it looks. At the end of the hall is the office of Matt Freeman, 37, the global CEO of Tribal DDB, an appealing guy in the old New England mode, with the shoelaces on his bluchers untied in what must be a kind of subtle nod to the ancient code of the nutty adman. A PR woman settles in on the couch with us to monitor the talk.

Tribal seems like a success. The Wall Street Journal gave it a Best Ads of the Year award, and a spot about a Philips razor meant for men who don’t stop shaving at the chin (shaveeverywhere.com) ran up nearly 2 million unique visits. As with the little guys, the numbers are good; their 2006 revenue represented a 60 percent increase over the previous year.

Freeman is as uncertain about how the future will unfold as most people in the business. How does a company like DDB, for example, fit into a model like Revver, a new site that supplies video as YouTube does but gives revenues to the creators? Not only do you not buy time on Revver—you’re supposed to get paid for it. It’s completely backward! Anyway, he doesn’t know. Weirder still, he says, “you could argue that our clients are becoming media companies themselves. They have audience aggregations on their own sites that are significant. Everybody has switched seats.” Pepsi’s Website, he points out, is more like a TV station than anything else, and it’s drawing better than some of those.

It’s an upbeat and interesting talk, but, still, there’s that PR woman hovering at the end of the couch. It is a hint that, despite all the fun, there is danger around. Or, as Amalgamated’s Charles Rosen, also a veteran of the last Internet boom, puts it, “it’s not sustainable. Of any eight companies you write about, I guarantee you no more than three will survive.”

But never mind all that downer talk. Right now, the money is flowing. Droga calls it a “gold rush,” and that is only one of many frontier metaphors floating around these days. As one director working on a viral campaign for Intel told me, “If I hear anyone say ‘It’s the Wild West out there’ again, I’m going to vomit.”

As for Rap Cat, his video went live on rap-cat.com in March, and Rosen says it’s been getting 30,000 hits a day. Rap Cat has thousands of friends on his MySpace page, and the fan club has been gaining about 500 new members daily. That’s in addition to the 800,000-plus viewings on YouTube.

The Rap Cat ringtone isn’t out yet, but Amalgamated is turning its attention to new campaigns, which include another Court TV promotion and an online global-warming initiative for Ben & Jerry’s. And Amalgamated continues to grow and field offers from conglomerates. “We’re talking with the landlord about taking over the sixth floor,” says Rosen. “And if we can’t do it, we may have to move again.”

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posted by R J Noriega
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Thursday, January 10, 2008,4:04 PM
Diversity marketing is good business
By Jack Riley

You’ve all seen it, you’ve all cringed. A well-meaning company runs a print ad with a beautiful African American couple dressed like a typical suburban White couple, pitching a product that has little or no relevance to an African American consumer with a dialog bubble-filled with words that no African American person would ever string together. Another attempt at diversity advertising misses the mark. Diversity marketing is more than putting a face of color in an ad campaign. It has to begin from the ground up as a unique, targeted, relevant marketing program with multiple components.

Before any of that can take place, however, a company has to be committed to the premise of diversity throughout the organization. Without a true organizational commitment, the program will come off as simply pandering to a minority group to generate sales and create a climate of mistrust internally and usually externally as well. Next, a company must understand the fact that diversity marketing is good business. Without those key components in place, diversity marketing will simply manifest itself as rhetoric and will translate into an insincere, inconsistent and ineffective message to a savvy minority consumer group that most marketers underestimate. Minority consumers have been keenly aware, for years, of the difference between what is true diversity marketing and what is manipulative window dressing designed to lure minorities into a product that has limited relevance and often even less appeal to the typical minority consumer. We believe that diversity in the workplace positions Fifth Third Bank to create diversity marketing with integrity which is transparent to the customer.

Companies who embark on diversity marketing must first take great pains to understand the minority group that they are targeting. Analyzing lifestyle behaviors, product usage and accepted messages is crucial to developing products and services that will serve as the foundation for diversity marketing programs. Even more important to the communications focus of the program is understanding the ethnic and cultural elements of the targeted minority group. Obvious issues such as special holidays, language and indigenous foods need to be addressed along with the more subtle signals such as generational aspirations.

Once you’ve established a base of understanding, it is imperative that the product is right. In banking, products and services can be tailored not only by their design, but by the internal experts available to the consumer to help drive the focus of the product so that it is truly a relevant solution. Who understands the unique wants and needs of an Arab American better than an Arab American? Now that you understand the consumer and you have developed a relevant solution with subject matter experts, it is time to communicate to your target audience, with the operative word here being target. While in many ways, minority groups’ media habits are more homogenous than those of the general population, delivering a message requires targeted creative and often non-traditional media. For example, urban radio alone is not the silver bullet for reaching African American consumers. It requires an integrated media plan that includes traditional media and grass roots venues such as public relations, sponsorships and the pulpit. Each venue has its own creative approach, but the message must be steady and singular, and again, relevant to the community to which you are addressing your message.

Creativity is vitally important to diversity marketing. Your homework on gaining a true understanding of your target group will guide your creative direction. It’s just not enough to use a minority face or minority ad. Alignment with copy, dialogue or headlines is critical.

As with any campaign, measuring results drives the future steps of your overall diversity marketing program. Sales results, survey projects, and anecdotal data should all be considered in developing new horizons for your program.

In summary, an effective diversity marketing program must contain:
• Organizational commitment to diversity.
• In-depth analysis of the target minority consumer group.
• Relevant products and services with internal subject matter experts.
• Non-traditional targeted media.
• Creativity that reflects the true minority consumer group with a singular message.
• A measurement mechanism that captures results.

Finally, my advice to any company embarking on a diversity marketing plan is to seek the council of an experienced minority public relations or advertising firm. The complexity and depth of understanding for minority marketing, especially those which present language barriers, cannot be fully comprehended until, as the proverb goes, “you have walked a mile in their shoes.” Support from a minority firm can provide you with that virtual stroll in your target consumers shoes, and in the end, isn’t that what all good marketing is about . . . walking in your customers’ shoes.

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posted by R J Noriega
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Tuesday, January 08, 2008,12:44 AM
The Secret to Raising Smart Kids
Scientific American Mind - November 28, 2007
The Secret to Raising Smart Kids
Hint: Don't tell your kids that they are. More than three decades of research shows that a focus on effort—not on intelligence or ability—is key to success in school and in life

By Carol S. Dweck

A brilliant student, Jonathan sailed through grade school. He completed his assignments easily and routinely earned As. Jonathan puzzled over why some of his classmates struggled, and his parents told him he had a special gift. In the seventh grade, however, Jonathan suddenly lost interest in school, refusing to do homework or study for tests. As a consequence, his grades plummeted. His parents tried to boost their son’s confidence by assuring him that he was very smart. But their attempts failed to motivate Jonathan (who is a composite drawn from several children). Schoolwork, their son maintained, was boring and pointless.

Our society worships talent, and many people assume that possessing superior intelligence or ability—along with confidence in that ability—is a recipe for success. In fact, however, more than 30 years of scientific investigation suggests that an overemphasis on intellect or talent leaves people vulnerable to failure, fearful of challenges and unwilling to remedy their shortcomings.

The result plays out in children like Jonathan, who coast through the early grades under the dangerous notion that no-effort academic achievement defines them as smart or gifted. Such children hold an implicit belief that intelligence is innate and fixed, making striving to learn seem far less important than being (or looking) smart. This belief also makes them see challenges, mistakes and even the need to exert effort as threats to their ego rather than as opportunities to improve. And it causes them to lose confidence and motivation when the work is no longer easy for them.

Praising children’s innate abilities, as Jonathan’s parents did, reinforces this mind-set, which can also prevent young athletes or people in the workforce and even marriages from living up to their potential. On the other hand, our studies show that teaching people to have a “growth mind-set,” which encourages a focus on effort rather than on intelligence or talent, helps make them into high achievers in school and in life.

The Opportunity of Defeat
I first began to investigate the underpinnings of human motivation—and how people persevere after setbacks—as a psychology graduate student at Yale University in the 1960s. Animal experiments by psychologists Martin Seligman, Steven Maier and Richard Solomon of the University of Pennsylvania had shown that after repeated failures, most animals conclude that a situation is hopeless and beyond their control. After such an experience, the researchers found, an animal often remains passive even when it can affect change—a state they called learned helplessness.

People can learn to be helpless, too, but not everyone reacts to setbacks this way. I wondered: Why do some students give up when they encounter difficulty, whereas others who are no more skilled continue to strive and learn? One answer, I soon discovered, lay in people’s beliefs about why they had failed.

In particular, attributing poor performance to a lack of ability depresses motivation more than does the belief that lack of effort is to blame. In 1972, when I taught a group of elementary and middle school children who displayed helpless behavior in school that a lack of effort (rather than lack of ability) led to their mistakes on math problems, the kids learned to keep trying when the problems got tough. They also solved many of the problems even in the face of difficulty. Another group of helpless children who were simply rewarded for their success on easy problems did not improve their ability to solve hard math problems. These experiments were an early indication that a focus on effort can help resolve helplessness and engender success.

Subsequent studies revealed that the most persistent students do not ruminate about their own failure much at all but instead think of mistakes as problems to be solved. At the University of Illinois in the 1970s I, along with my then graduate student Carol Diener, asked 60 fifth graders to think out loud while they solved very difficult pattern-recognition problems. Some students reacted defensively to mistakes, denigrating their skills with comments such as “I never did have a good rememory,” and their problem-solving strategies deteriorated.

Others, meanwhile, focused on fixing errors and honing their skills. One advised himself: “I should slow down and try to figure this out.” Two schoolchildren were particularly inspiring. One, in the wake of difficulty, pulled up his chair, rubbed his hands together, smacked his lips and said, “I love a challenge!” The other, also confronting the hard problems, looked up at the experimenter and approvingly declared, “I was hoping this would be informative!” Predictably, the students with this attitude outperformed their cohorts in these studies.

Two Views of Intelligence
Several years later I developed a broader theory of what separates the two general classes of learners—helpless versus mastery-oriented. I realized that these different types of students not only explain their failures differently, but they also hold different “theories” of intelligence. The helpless ones believe that intelligence is a fixed trait: you have only a certain amount, and that’s that. I call this a “fixed mind-set.” Mistakes crack their self-confidence because they attribute errors to a lack of ability, which they feel powerless to change. They avoid challenges because challenges make mistakes more likely and looking smart less so. Like Jonathan, such children shun effort in the belief that having to work hard means they are dumb.

The mastery-oriented children, on the other hand, think intelligence is malleable and can be developed through education and hard work. They want to learn above all else. After all, if you believe that you can expand your intellectual skills, you want to do just that. Because slipups stem from a lack of effort, not ability, they can be remedied by more effort. Challenges are energizing rather than intimidating; they offer opportunities to learn. Students with such a growth mind-set, we predicted, were destined for greater academic success and were quite likely to outperform their counterparts.

We validated these expectations in a study published in early 2007. Psychologists Lisa Blackwell of Columbia University and Kali H. Trzes*niewski of Stanford University and I monitored 373 students for two years during the transition to junior high school, when the work gets more difficult and the grading more stringent, to determine how their mind-sets might affect their math grades. At the beginning of seventh grade, we assessed the students’ mind-sets by asking them to agree or disagree with statements such as “Your intelligence is something very basic about you that you can’t really change.” We then assessed their beliefs about other aspects of learning and looked to see what happened to their grades.

As we had predicted, the students with a growth mind-set felt that learning was a more important goal in school than getting good grades. In addition, they held hard work in high regard, believing that the more you labored at something, the better you would become at it. They understood that even geniuses have to work hard for their great accomplishments. Confronted by a setback such as a disappointing test grade, students with a growth mind-set said they would study harder or try a different strategy for mastering the material.

The students who held a fixed mind-set, however, were concerned about looking smart with little regard for learning. They had negative views of effort, believing that having to work hard at something was a sign of low ability. They thought that a person with talent or intelligence did not need to work hard to do well. Attributing a bad grade to their own lack of ability, those with a fixed mind-set said that they would study less in the future, try never to take that subject again and consider cheating on future tests.

Such divergent outlooks had a dramatic impact on performance. At the start of junior high, the math achievement test scores of the students with a growth mind-set were comparable to those of students who displayed a fixed mind-set. But as the work became more difficult, the students with a growth mind-set showed greater persistence. As a result, their math grades overtook those of the other students by the end of the first semester—and the gap between the two groups continued to widen during the two years we followed them.

Along with Columbia psychologist Heidi Grant, I found a similar relation between mind-set and achievement in a 2003 study of 128 Columbia freshman premed students who were enrolled in a challenging general chemistry course. Although all the students cared about grades, the ones who earned the best grades were those who placed a high premium on learning rather than on showing that they were smart in chemistry. The focus on learning strategies, effort and persistence paid off for these students.

Confronting Deficiencies
A belief in fixed intelligence also makes people less willing to admit to errors or to confront and remedy their deficiencies in school, at work and in their social relationships. In a study published in 1999 of 168 freshmen entering the University of Hong Kong, where all instruction and coursework are in English, three Hong Kong colleagues and I found that students with a growth mind-set who scored poorly on their English proficiency exam were far more inclined to take a remedial English course than were low-scoring students with a fixed mind-set. The students with a stagnant view of intelligence were presumably unwilling to admit to their deficit and thus passed up the opportunity to correct it.

A fixed mind-set can similarly hamper communication and progress in the workplace by leading managers and employees to discourage or ignore constructive criticism and advice. Research by psychologists Peter Heslin and Don VandeWalle of Southern Methodist University and Gary Latham of the University of Toronto shows that managers who have a fixed mind-set are less likely to seek or welcome feedback from their employees than are managers with a growth mind-set. Presumably, managers with a growth mind-set see themselves as works-in-progress and understand that they need feedback to improve, whereas bosses with a fixed mind-set are more likely to see criticism as reflecting their underlying level of competence. Assuming that other people are not capable of changing either, executives with a fixed mind-set are also less likely to mentor their underlings. But after Heslin, VandeWalle and Latham gave managers a tutorial on the value and principles of the growth mind-set, supervisors became more willing to coach their employees and gave more useful advice.

Mind-set can affect the quality and longevity of personal relationships as well, through people’s willingness—or unwillingness—to deal with difficulties. Those with a fixed mind-set are less likely than those with a growth mind-set to broach problems in their relationships and to try to solve them, according to a 2006 study I conducted with psychologist Lara Kammrath of Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario. After all, if you think that human personality traits are more or less fixed, relationship repair seems largely futile. Individuals who believe people can change and grow, however, are more confident that confronting concerns in their relationships will lead to resolutions.

Proper Praise
How do we transmit a growth mind-set to our children? One way is by telling stories about achievements that result from hard work. For instance, talking about math geniuses who were more or less born that way puts students in a fixed mind-set, but descriptions of great mathematicians who fell in love with math and developed amazing skills engenders a growth mind-set, our studies have shown. People also communicate mind-sets through praise. Although many, if not most, parents believe that they should build up a child by telling him or her how brilliant and talented he or she is, our research suggests that this is misguided.

In studies involving several hundred fifth graders published in 1998, for example, Columbia psychologist Claudia M. Mueller and I gave children questions from a nonverbal IQ test. After the first 10 problems, on which most children did fairly well, we praised them. We praised some of them for their intelligence: “Wow … that’s a really good score. You must be smart at this.” We commended others for their effort: “Wow … that’s a really good score. You must have worked really hard.”

We found that intelligence praise encouraged a fixed mind-set more often than did pats on the back for effort. Those congratulated for their intelligence, for example, shied away from a challenging assignment—they wanted an easy one instead—far more often than the kids applauded for their effort. (Most of those lauded for their hard work wanted the difficult problem set from which they would learn.) When we gave everyone hard problems anyway, those praised for being smart became discouraged, doubting their ability. And their scores, even on an easier problem set we gave them afterward, declined as compared with their previous results on equivalent problems. In contrast, students praised for their effort did not lose confidence when faced with the harder questions, and their performance improved markedly on the easier problems that followed.

Making Up Your Mind-set
In addition to encouraging a growth mind-set through praise for effort, parents and teachers can help children by providing explicit instruction regarding the mind as a learning machine. Blackwell, Trzesniewski and I recently designed an eight-session workshop for 91 students whose math grades were declining in their first year of junior high. Forty-eight of the students received instruction in study skills only, whereas the others attended a combination of study skills sessions and classes in which they learned about the growth mind-set and how to apply it to schoolwork.

In the growth mind-set classes, students read and discussed an article entitled “You Can Grow Your Brain.” They were taught that the brain is like a muscle that gets stronger with use and that learning prompts neurons in the brain to grow new connections. From such instruction, many students began to see themselves as agents of their own brain development. Students who had been disruptive or bored sat still and took note. One particularly unruly boy looked up during the discussion and said, “You mean I don’t have to be dumb?”

As the semester progressed, the math grades of the kids who learned only study skills continued to decline, whereas those of the students given the growth-mind-set training stopped falling and began to bounce back to their former levels. Despite being unaware that there were two types of instruction, teachers reported noticing significant motivational changes in 27 percent of the children in the growth mind-set workshop as compared with only 9 percent of students in the control group. One teacher wrote: “Your workshop has already had an effect. L [our unruly male student], who never puts in any extra effort and often doesn’t turn in homework on time, actually stayed up late to finish an assignment early so I could review it and give him a chance to revise it. He earned a B+. (He had been getting Cs and lower.)”

Other researchers have replicated our results. Psychologists Catherine Good, then at Columbia, and Joshua Aronson and Michael Inzlicht of New York University reported in 2003 that a growth mind-set workshop raised the math and English achievement test scores of seventh graders. In a 2002 study Aronson, Good (then a graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin) and their colleagues found that college students began to enjoy their schoolwork more, value it more highly and get better grades as a result of training that fostered a growth mind-set.

We have now encapsulated such instruction in an interactive computer program called “Brain*ology,” which should be more widely available by mid-2008. Its six modules teach students about the brain—what it does and how to make it work better. In a virtual brain lab, users can click on brain regions to determine their functions or on nerve endings to see how connections form when people learn. Users can also advise virtual students with problems as a way of practicing how to handle schoolwork difficulties; additionally, users keep an online journal of their study practices.

New York City seventh graders who tested a pilot version of Brainology told us that the program had changed their view of learning and how to promote it. One wrote: “My favorite thing from Brainology is the neurons part where when u [sic] learn something there are connections and they keep growing. I always picture them when I’m in school.” A teacher said of the students who used the program: “They offer to practice, study, take notes, or pay attention to ensure that connections will be made.”

Teaching children such information is not just a ploy to get them to study. People do differ in intelligence, talent and ability. And yet research is converging on the conclusion that great accomplishment, and even what we call genius, is typically the result of years of passion and dedication and not something that flows naturally from a gift. Mozart, Edison, Curie, Darwin and Cézanne were not simply born with talent; they cultivated it through tremendous and sustained effort. Similarly, hard work and discipline contribute much more to school achievement than IQ does.

Such lessons apply to almost every human endeavor. For instance, many young athletes value talent more than hard work and have consequently become unteachable. Similarly, many people accomplish little in their jobs without constant praise and encouragement to maintain their motivation. If we foster a growth mind-set in our homes and schools, however, we will give our children the tools to succeed in their pursuits and to become responsible employees and citizens.



posted by R J Noriega
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Sunday, January 06, 2008,12:28 AM
Study: Monkeys 'Pay' for Sex by Grooming

SINGAPORE (AP) -- Male macaque monkeys pay for sex by grooming females, according to a recent study that suggests the primates may treat sex as a commodity.

"In primate societies, grooming is the underlying fabric of it all," Dr. Michael Gumert, a primatologist at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, said in a telephone interview Saturday.

"It's a sign of friendship and family, and it's also something that can be exchanged for sexual services," Gumert said.

Gumert's findings, reported in New Scientist last week, resulted from a 20-month observation of about 50 long-tailed macaques in a reserve in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia.

Gumert found after a male grooms a female, the likelihood that she will engage in sexual activity with the male was about three times more than if the grooming had not occurred.

And as with other commodities, the value of sex is affected by supply and demand factors: A male would spend more time grooming a female if there were fewer females in the vicinity.

"And when the female supply is higher, the male spends less time on grooming ... The mating actually becomes cheaper depending on the market," Gumert said.

Other experts not involved in the study welcomed Gumert's research, saying it was a major effort in systematically studying the interaction of organisms in ways in which an exchange of commodities or services can be observed - a theory known as biological markets.

Dr. Peter Hammerstein, a professor at the Institute for Theoretical Biology at Humboldt University in Berlin and Dr. Ronald Noe, a primatologist at the University of Louis-Pasteur in Strasbourg, France, first proposed the concept of biological markets in 1994.

"It is not a rare phenomenon in nature that males have to make some 'mating effort' in order to get a female's 'permission' to mate," Hammerstein said in an interview, likening the effort to a "fee" that the male pays.

"The interesting result of Dr. Gumert's research on macaque mating is that the mating market seems to have an influence on the amount of this fee," Hammerstein said.

Hammserstein said Gumert's findings indicate the monkeys are capable of adjusting their behavior to "different market conditions."

Gumert completed his fieldwork in February 2005 and first published his findings in the November issue of "Animal Behaviour," a scientific monthly journal.


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