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PERSONAL CONCEPTIONS OF INTELLIGENCE, SELFESTEEM, AND SCHOOL ACfflEVEMENT IN ITALIAN AND PORTUGUESE STUDENTS Annamaria Pepi, Luisa Faria, and Marianna Alesi ABSTRACT Educational research places emphasis on the fact that different cultures have different self-construals. These construals can influence cognitive, emotional, and motivational processes in individuals. Great importance is attached to individuals' imphcit conceptions of the nature of their intelligence (incremental or entity) and se
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  PERSONAL CONCEPTIONS OF INTELLIGENCE, SELF-ESTEEM, AND SCHOOL ACfflEVEMENT IN ITALIAN ANDPORTUGUESE STUDENTSAnnamaria Pepi, Luisa Faria,and Marianna Alesi ABSTRACT Educational research places emphasis on the fact that different cultures havedifferent self-construals. These construals can influence cognitive, emotional,and motivational processes in individuals. Great importance is attached toindividuals' imphcit conceptions of the nature of their intelligence (incrementalor entity) and self-esteem. In general, both representation of intelligence andself-esteem seem to play an important role in scholastic performance in termsof both a predispostion to leaming and the results actually achieved. The aimof this research is to determine the relationship between variables such asschool, and socioeconomic level and gender in Italian and Portuguese students. A questionnaire was administered to 1,540 high school and university studentsassessing socioeconomic level and school performance, the Personal Concep-tions of Intelligence Test (Faira & Fontaine, 1997), and the Self-Esteem Test(Rosenberg, 1965). In general, results show that Portuguese subjects are moreincremental than Italians. Moreover, signiflcant differences have to be deter-mined regarding motivational factors linked to school and socioeconomic leveland gender.The research highlights the importance of macro-contextual fac-tors in the social, economic, and political organizations that influence howpeople develop their motivational beliefs. Motivation and Learning Considerable evidence in the literature demonstrates how scholasticachievement depends on the reciprocal enhancement of students' cog-nitive abilities and emotional-motivational attributes. When there isa disfunctional pattern of motivation in relation to studying, character-ized by an inappropriate representation of the subject's abilities, thenlow self-esteem, negative attribution style, and lack of persistence cre-This study was funded by the University of Palermo/Italy (Bando CoRI,2002) and the Faculty of Psychology and Education, University of Porto/Por-tugal.Annamaria Pepi, Dipartimento di Psicologia, Universita di Palermo, Italia.Luisa Faria, Faculdade de Psicologia e de Ciencias da Educafao, Universi-dade do Porto, Portugal.Marianna Alesi, Dipartimento di Psicologia, University di Palermo, Italia.Requests for reprints should be sent to Annamaria Pepi, Dipartimento diPsicologia, Universita di Palermo, V. le delle Scienze, Ediflcio 15, 90128 Pal-ermo, Italy. E-mail: ape@unipa.it. ADOLESCENCE, VoL 41, No. 164, Winter 2006Libra Pubiishers, inc., 3089C Clairemont Dr., PMB 383, San Diego, CA 92117  ate conditions for poor use of an individual's cognitive capacity, withthe inevitable negative consequences not only for scholastic achieve-ment, but for the process of constructing personality. This relationshipis especially important during adolescence (Bacchini, Freda, & Cas- saro, 2000; Vermigli, Travaglia, Alcini, & Galluccio, 2001). School, seenas a kind of test bank, and where the student's future is mapped out,influences the process of constructing self-image, self-esteem, and asense of self-sufficiency. Simultaneously, new cognitive skills central-ize the decision-making and planning processes (Canigati, 1997; Cat-telino, Bigotti, & Bonino, 2001). Personal Conceptions of Intelligence and School Achievement Personal conceptions of intelligence direct individuals towards eithera dynamic-incremental or static representation of their own abilities,and influence their formulation of causal attributions, achievement goals, persistence, and task choices (Dweck, 1999; Levy, Stroessner, &Dweck, 1998; Levy & Dweck, 1999). In particular, subjects taking theincremental view consider intelligence as a quality which can be im-proved through effort. They also set themselves goals based on theirdesire to master new skills, thereby increasing their competence. More-over, they tend to adopt effective strategies, seek challenging tasks,and make greater effort, which is seen under their control. On theother hand, subjects with a static view consider intelligence as a sortof gift with which the individual is endowed and cannot change. Theytend to adopt goals aimed at ensuring positive judgements of theirabilities. They see effort as an indicator of their limited ability, em-plojdng superflcial strategies and favoring easily achievable goals(Dweck, 1999; Erdley, Cain, Loomis, Dumas-Hines, & Dweck, 1997).The way people view intelligence seems to be linked to gender; that is,girls tend to adopt a static view of intelligence, which influences theirchoice of goals. They tend to avoid challenge, to have more limitedexpectations of success than their male counterparts, and to attributefailure to their own lack of ability. Failure is likely to be followedby worsening performance and an increased tendency toward learnedhelplessness and a generally lower level of self-esteem (Eccles, Wig-fleld, Harold, & Blumenfeld, 1993; Stetsenko, Little, Grasshof, & Oet-tingen, 2000). An individual's conception of intelligence thus has apowerful influence on scholastic achievement, both in terms of thepredisposition to leam and of the results actually achieved. On the onehand, students who see ability and performance as relatively  flxed endto focus on performance, and are more likely to fall back on superflcialstrategies in order to complete a task. On the other hand, students616  who believe in incremental intelligence and performance demonstratea greater predisposition for long-term leaming. Furthermore, numer-ous studies have found a correlation between school grades and repre-sentations of intelligence. Students who adopt an incremental viewtend to get higher grades than those with a static view (Faria, 1996;Stipek & Gralinski, 1991). Self-esteem and School Achievement Self-esteem is a fundamental aspect of a person's experience andquality of life (Crocker & Wolfe, 2001). A positive self-evaluation is acrucial predictor of one's general well-being and degree of adaptationto the social context, as well as a powerful factor in protecting againstpsycho-social risks in adolescence (Forzi & Not, 2003).Self-esteem, traditionally seen as a one-dimensional construct cor-responding to the evaluative component of the self (Rosenberg, 1979),emerges precociously when children are required early on to verifyself-evaluation comparing it with actual performance on a variety oftasks. Moreover, this process of comparison and negotiation betweenthe perceived self and the ideal self takes on new importance duringadolescence because of the ever more diversifled job of developing andthe psycho-physical changes taking place (Bracken, 1992; D'Urso,Spagnolo, & Quaranta, 2000). Numerous differences have been notedbetween the self-esteem of males and females during adolescence be-cause they tend to adhere to gender stereotypes. Speciflcally, male self- esteem seems to be more influenced by goals related to independenceand autonomy, while female self-esteem is more closely deflned bygoals characterized by sensitivity and interdependence (Cross & Mad-son, 1997). In general, high self-esteem seems to be associated withpersonal conceptions oriented more toward the incremental end of thecontinuum, to a view of oneself as active and capable of promotingchange through effort, and of setting goals which involve leaming newthings. In contrast, a need for continual conflrmation of one's view of oneself, coupled with interpreting challenge as a threat to self-esteem,and reacting to failure by lowering self-esteem, are all more commonin subjects who tend more toward a static view of intelligence (Alesi, 2003; Pepi & Alesi, 2002). The relationship between self-esteem andacademic achievement has been well documented in the literature.While self-esteem is powerfully influenced by results achieved and ap-preciation shown by others from primary school on, it is also a goodpredictor of academic success. Adequate self-esteem is related to thecapacity to cope Avith academic tasks by employing effective studymethods and actively participating in the leaming process, both ofwhich are involved in achieving set goals (Vermigli, Travaglia, Al-cini, & Galluccio, 2001; Crocker, Luhtanen, Cooper, & Bouvrette2003). 617  Cultural Influences The recent increase in popularity of social conceptualizations ofleaming has encouraged educational psychologists to focus on the roleof different social and cultural motivational factors, in their turn con-sidered powerful mediators of academic success (Boekaerts, 1999). Therole of cultural factors in directing belief systems relates to ability andeffort, and in influencing cognitive and motivational patterns, has beenwell documented (Markus & Kitayama, 1991). Speciflcaily, differentcultures seem to encourage certain constructs of self dependence (Ep-stein, 1992; Kitayama, Markus, Matsumoto, & Norasakkunkit, 1997;Harrington & Liu, 2002). Up to now, cross-cultural studies of motiva-tional constructs have concentrated mostly on comparing Asian withWestern groups from Europe and the United States. These studieshave shown how Western cultures that focus primarily on the individ- ual, see the results of their efforts as reflecting on themselves andtheir own abilities. Asian students, who focus more on the group, seepersonal involvement and effort as relevant not only to themselves butto their group (Lundeberg, Fox, & Brown, 2000). As far as personalconceptions of intelligence are concerned, the research has shown thatAsian cultures attribute greater value to effort in their view of intelli-gence (Henderson, Marx, & Kim, 1999; Little & Lopez, 1997). NorthAmericans seem to be signiflcantly more incremental, thereby re-flecting their cultural ideology as one based on the notion that it ispossible to modify society to satisfy individual needs (Levy, Plaks,Hong, Chiu, & Dweck, 2001). Studies on the conception of intelligenceconducted in Italy and Portugal have emphasized the importance ofthe subject's socioeconomic background. Both young children andadults from low socioeconomic classes tend to adopt a more static repre-sentation, to feel less control of their efForts and to prefer goals whichoffer a quick positive outcome and immediate conflrmation of theircompetence. Moreover, Italian and Portuguese students tend to per-ceive intelligence as less of a gift or static entity, and more as some-thing djmamic, as they get older. This flnding could be interpreted asa reflection both of developmental factors, attributable to increasingcognitive ability linked to age, and also of the similarity between theItalian and Portuguese education systems, which both focus on promot-ing a spirit of collaboration and cooperation in the classroom (Faria, 2002; Pepi & Alesi, 2000).The need for self-esteem also seems to be especially important inWestern cultures, unlike the Japanese culture for example, in whichself-criticism is appreciated much more (Forzi & Not, 2003). Self-es-teem, like the individual's concept of self, may depend on the influences618
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