Guest Episode
April 15, 2024

Dr. David Yeager: How to Master Growth Mindset to Improve Performance

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In this episode, my guest is Dr. David Yeager, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of Texas, Austin, and the author of the forthcoming book "10 to 25.” We discuss how people of any age can use growth mindset and stress-is-enhancing mindsets to improve motivation and performance.

We explain the best mindset for mentors and being mentored and how great leaders motivate others with high standards and support. We also discuss why a sense of purpose is essential to goal pursuit and achievement.

Whether you are a parent, teacher, boss, coach, student or someone wanting to improve a skill or overcome a particular challenge, this episode provides an essential framework for adopting performance-enhancing mindsets leading to success.



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About this Guest

Dr. David Yeager

David Yeager, Ph.D. is a professor of psychology at the University of Texas, Austin, and the author of the forthcoming book "10 to 25."

  • 00:00:00 Dr. David Yeager
  • 00:01:49 Sponsors: AeroPress & ROKA
  • 00:04:20 Growth Mindset; Performance, Self-Esteem
  • 00:10:31 “Wise” Intervention, Teaching Growth Mindset
  • 00:15:12 Stories & Writing Exercises
  • 00:19:42 Effort Beliefs, Physiologic Stress Response
  • 00:24:44 Stress-Is-Enhancing vs Stress-Is-Debilitating Mindsets
  • 00:29:28 Sponsor: AG1
  • 00:30:58 Language & Importance, Stressor vs. Stress Response
  • 00:37:54 Physiologic Cues, Threat vs Challenge Response
  • 00:44:35 Mentor Mindset & Leadership; Protector vs Enforcer Mindset
  • 00:53:58 Sponsor: Waking Up
  • 00:55:14 Strivings, Social Hierarchy & Adolescence, Testosterone
  • 01:06:28 Growth Mindset & Transferability, Defensiveness
  • 01:11:36 Challenge, Environment & Growth Mindset
  • 01:19:08 Goal Pursuit, Brain Development & Adaptation
  • 01:24:54 Emotions; Loss vs. Gain & Motivation
  • 01:32:28 Skill Building & Challenge, Purpose Motivation
  • 01:39:59 Contribution Value, Scientific Work & Scrutiny
  • 01:50:01 Self-Interest, Contribution Mindset
  • 01:58:05 Criticism, Negative Workplaces vs. Growth Culture
  • 02:06:51 Critique & Support; Motivation; Standardized Tests
  • 02:16:40 Mindset Research
  • 02:23:53 Zero-Cost Support, Spotify & Apple Reviews, Sponsors, YouTube Feedback, Momentous, Social Media, Neural Network Newsletter

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This transcript version is not in its final form and will be updated.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Welcome to the Huberman Lab podcast, where we discuss science and science-based tools for everyday life.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: I'm Andrew Huberman, and I'm a professor of neurobiology and ophthalmology at Stanford School of Medicine. My guest today is Dr. David Yeager. Dr. David Yeager is a professor of psychology at the University Of Texas at Austin and one of the world's leading researchers into mindsets, in particular, growth mindset, which is a mindset that enables people of all ages to improve their abilities at essentially anything.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: He is also a world expert into the stress is performance enhancing mindset, which is a mindset that allows people to cognitively reframe stress. And that when combined with growth mindset can lead to dramatic improvements in performance in cognitive and physical endeavors.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Dr. Yeager is also the author of an important and extremely useful new book entitled 10 to 25, The Science of Motivating Young People. The book is scheduled for release this summer, that is the summer of 2024, and we provided a link to the book in the show note captions.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: During today's discussion, Dr. Yeager explains to us exactly what growth mindset is through the lens of the research into growth mindset, and he explains also how to apply growth mindset in our lives. He also shares the research from his and other laboratories on the stress can be performance enhancing mindset and how that can be combined with growth mindset to achieve the maximum results.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: So while I assume that most people have heard of growth mindset, today's discussion will allow you to really apply it in your life, not just from the perspective of you, the person trying to learn, but also for teachers and coaches. In fact, Dr.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Yeager shares not just the optimal learning environments for us as individuals, but also between individuals and in the classroom, in families, in sports teams, and in groups of all sizes and kinds. Before we begin, I'd like to emphasize that this podcast is separate from my teaching and research roles at Stanford.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: It is, however, part of my desire and effort to bring zero cost to consumer information about science and science-related tools to the general public. In keeping with that theme, I'd like to thank the sponsors of today's podcast. Our first sponsor is AeroPress. AeroPress is like a French press, but a French press that always brews the perfect cup of coffee, meaning no bitterness and excellent taste.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: AeroPress achieves this because it uses a very short contact time between the hot water and the coffee. And that short contact time also means that you can brew an excellent cup of coffee very quickly. The whole thing takes... Only about three minutes.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: I started using an AeroPress over 10 years ago, and I learned about it from a guy named Alan Adler, who's a former Stanford engineer, who's also an inventor. He developed things like the Arobi Frisbee. In any event, I'm a big fan of Adler inventions.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: And when I heard he developed a coffee maker, the AeroPress, I tried it, and I found that, indeed, it makes the best possible tasting cup of coffee. It's also extremely small and portable, so I started using it in the laboratory, when I travel on the road, and also at home. And I'm not alone in my love of the AeroPress coffee maker. With over 55,000 five-star reviews, AeroPress is the best reviewed coffee press in the world.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: If you'd like to try AeroPress, you can go to slash Huberman to get 20% off. AeroPress currently ships in the USA, Canada, and to over 60 other countries around the world. Again, that's slash Huberman. Today's episode is also brought to us by ROKA.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: ROKA makes eyeglasses and sunglasses that are the absolute highest quality. Now I've spent a lifetime working on the biology of the visual system. And I can tell you that your visual system has to contend with an enormous number of different challenges in order for you to be able to see clearly.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: ROKA understands this and has developed their eyeglasses and sunglasses so that regardless of the conditions you're in, you always see with the utmost clarity. ROKA eyeglasses and sunglasses were initially designed for use in sport, in particular things like running and cycling. Now as a consequence, ROKA frames are extremely lightweight, so much so that most of the time you don't even remember that they're on your face.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: They're also designed so that they don't slip off if you get sweaty. Now, even though they were initially designed for performance in sport, they now have many different frames and styles, all of which can be used in sport, but also when out to dinner, at work, essentially anytime and in any setting.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: If you'd like to try ROKA glasses, you can go to ROKA, that's R-O-K-A. Com and enter the code Huberman to get 20% off. Again, that's R-O-K-A. Com and enter the code Huberman to get 20% off. And now for my discussion, with Dr. David Yeager. Dr. David Yeager, welcome.

DAVID YEAGER: Thanks for having me.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Can you tell us your definition of growth mindset? I think most people have heard of it. They have some sense of what it is, but you've worked very intensely on growth mindset for a number of years. So I'd love to know how you define it.

DAVID YEAGER: Yeah, so it's simply the belief that your abilities or your potential in some domain can change.

DAVID YEAGER: A huge confusion is people think it means if you try hard, then you can do anything. But that's not really the idea. It's simply that... Under the right conditions, with the right support, change is possible. And that ends up being a pretty powerful idea because the opposite is so stressful. The idea that you...

DAVID YEAGER: Are static. Nothing about you can change is really kind of a stressful idea.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Of all the studies on growth mindset, including yours. Ones that you've participated in. What one or two... Kind of high level results stand out to you as the most striking, surprising, exciting, or meaningful. And here I will encourage you to discard with attribution.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: We know that, or everyone should know that Carol Dweck is the originator of the growth mindset idea as a field, and she deserves tremendous credit for that. So when you stand back from the field, given that it's mushroomed into this very large field now. And you look at that research, which results kind of stand out as like, wow, that's really cool, really meaningful. People should know about that.

DAVID YEAGER: What stands out to me a lot, first of all, is just the field experiments. The idea that you can distill. A complex idea about the brain, about malleability, you can give it to a young person at a time when they're vulnerable and that that can give them hope and then they can do better at school or whatever.

DAVID YEAGER: So our 2019 paper in Nature that Carol, Greg Walton, Angela Duckworth, a lot of us collaborated on, took a very short growth mindset intervention, two sessions, about 25 minutes each for ninth graders, and we found kids were... Eight, nine months later, more likely to get good grades. By 10th grade, more likely to be in the hard math classes.

DAVID YEAGER: And the unpublished results find effects four years later on graduating high school with college-ready courses from a short intervention that happened, you know, just one or two times, no reinforcement. So there's a lot of reasons why that's true. That sounds magical and outrageous, and there are a lot of mechanisms.

DAVID YEAGER: But that just demonstrates the overall value of the phenomenon. And in that study, we did everything we possibly could to address legitimate skepticism, right? Are we collecting and processing the data in ways that could bias it? No, third party. Are we handpicking schools where you could get the best effects?

DAVID YEAGER: No, random sample of schools. Did we post-hoc decide on the analyses that would make the results look the greatest? No, pre-registered. So that's a good like, okay, this phenomenon is not. Something that falls apart in the hands of anyone else besides a select few researchers. That's really, and we can go into that.

DAVID YEAGER: But that doesn't explain the mechanisms. And I think that... There are a lot of interesting growth mindset mechanism studies. My personal favorite is a very underappreciated. Kind of like indie rock study by David Neusbaum and Carol Dweck. That David did when he was a graduate student at Stanford.

DAVID YEAGER: It's on defensiveness versus remediation. And the basic idea is, in a fixed mindset, the idea that your intelligence cannot change, you are the way you are, it can't change.

DAVID YEAGER: Your goal in that fixed mindset is to defend your ego. To like hide your deficiencies or any flaws. Because if they're fixed and then they're revealed, then it labels you for life in some way as less than, shameworthy, et cetera, right? In a growth mindset though, a mistake is like part of the process. It's just an opportunity to grow.

DAVID YEAGER: So... David took that idea and then set up a study. And I think I have the details right, where undergraduates did a task, they all did poorly, they were getting 20, 30% correct on this task. And the question is, what do you do before you do your second try? How do you cope with that initial failure?

DAVID YEAGER: And he found that both fixed and mindset participants wanted to recover their self-esteem. So you do poorly, you feel like crap, what am I going to do to feel better about myself? In a fixed mindset. They looked downward. So the people getting a 25, look at the people who got a 12. Like, I'm twice as good as these losers, right? In a growth mindset, they look at the people getting an 85 or 90.

DAVID YEAGER: What are they doing? What are their strategies? How can I improve? Both of them then recovered self-esteem and looked the same at post-test. And I think about that a lot, like how often in our society. Does something happen to us and we feel like garbage and you have a choice?

DAVID YEAGER: Like, am I going to look down on other people and say, at least I'm not as bad as these losers? Or am I going to say, like, how am I going to get better? And I love that because think of a ninth grader who bombs their algebra test. Am I like a no good dumb at math loser who's not going anywhere in life? Well at least I'm not that burnt out. Right? Or is it like...

DAVID YEAGER: How is anyone getting an A in this class? I'm not getting an A. What's happening? What can I learn from them? So the openness and willingness to... Self-improve. I think is the underwriting mechanism. And hardly anyone cites that study, but I think about it all the time. And it's the kind of thing that I like. If I'm being honest, that's the mindset I want my kids to have as they go through life.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Very interesting. I'm going to ask you more about this looking down or looking up in terms of performance. But before I do that, I have questions about these brief.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: 25 minute, I think you said, interventions?

DAVID YEAGER: Yeah, sometimes 25. Sometimes we do two sessions each about 20, 25. Yeah.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Can you give us a sense of what those interventions look like? I mean, it's incredible. These two sessions have positive effects lasting up to four years and perhaps even beyond. Yeah. Maybe just a top contour of some of what these kids hear during those sessions.

DAVID YEAGER: Yeah, I mean, so the first thing to realize is that they're short and they have to do two things in order to have long lasting effects. One is I have to convince you to think differently at the end of the session. So I just have to persuade you over the course of 25 minutes to have a different mindset. That's sometimes hard.

DAVID YEAGER: But then even if I do that, you then might have months or years between when I did that and when the outcome is measured. So how could you remember it and apply it? And how many 25-minute experiences in your life do you have no recollection of? I have lots. So I think People are skeptical of the mindset style of interventions for two different, I think, legitimate reasons.

DAVID YEAGER: I remember a very famous statistician came to my office at UT Austin and was like, I just don't understand these interventions. I mean, the other day I spent 25 minutes telling my son all the things he has to change and like, oh, he's doing everything wrong. And he didn't remember it five minutes later.

DAVID YEAGER: How could someone remember your thing four years later? And I was like, did you hear yourself talking? Like, I'm sure the way you talk to yourself is like. Totally condescending and bad. So the first step is in that 25 minutes. How are you communicating in a way where someone's ears are open? Where they're not feeling talked down to, ashamed, humiliated, etc.

DAVID YEAGER: But then the second step is saying that to you at a time when it's possible for there to be a, what we call a recursive process or a snowball effect that's going to happen over time. So that's the stage setting. Okay. So now let's take the first part, 25 minutes.

DAVID YEAGER: What am I going to say to you? Right. There are three big things that are in every. Intervention. And the term that Greg Walton, a Stanford professor, colleague, collaborator, uses is wise interventions. That's the umbrella term of which growth mindset is one.

DAVID YEAGER: And a good one, but it's just one of many. For wise interventions, we often do the following three things. First is we present some new scientific information, some idea that almost in like a Gladwell way is not... Is not obvious and intuitive to the reader, but feels like new information.

DAVID YEAGER: And useful information. So the first is a scientific. The second is we present participants with stories from people like them who've used those ideas in their lives and found them useful. So in the concrete case of ninth graders getting growth mindset, it's like 10th, 11th, 12th graders who previously felt dumb.

DAVID YEAGER: Learned a growth mindset, then felt better. It's more complicated than that. That's the basic idea. And last, we don't just tell them the stories. We ask, third, for participants to author a story. So they write a narrative about a time when they struggled, a time when they doubted themselves, and then remembered this idea that people can change, like my brain can grow, et cetera.

DAVID YEAGER: So the three points are scientific information, stories, or the technical term is descriptive norms. So you're giving people... Information about what's normal for people like you.

DAVID YEAGER: And then the third is the writing, which we call saying is believing, which is a term that's a popularized version of the term that came from classic social psychologists, Josh Aronson, Elliot Aronson, who found in the work on cognitive dissonance 30, 40 years ago, that one of the best ways to change someone's mind about something is to ask them to try to persuade somebody else.

DAVID YEAGER: So that we do those sort of things. So what is the science? It's in the growth mindset. That's where we draw on the metaphor that the brain is like a muscle. That just like... Muscles get stronger when they're challenged and can recover. So too does the brain get smarter when it's pushed and challenged in a certain way.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: This idea that... Writing a story about oneself or about others in which one succeeds can be useful toward building growth mindset in, you know, in basic terms. I think that's what you're referring to. I think it's interesting.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: It sort of suggests that we have brain circuits that underlie growth mindset type behaviors and thinking and that just storing into those can potentially lead to better decision making and behavior. I mean, obviously, it can't create new skills.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Simply because, you know, I can't write a story about me being able to dunk a basketball and then expect that I can dunk a basketball because at present I can't. But the idea of writing a story about the effort going into. Dunking a basketball and learning how, and then translating that to a more realistic sense of, of ability that allows me to then go practice more. Is that sort of what you're referring to?

DAVID YEAGER: Yeah. So the, in a 2016 paper in PNAS, Greg Walton and I. Explain these types of interventions as a, we call them a lay theory intervention. And the idea there is that lay people, like not scientific theories, but just our intuitive theories for explaining the world, help us. Anticipate what something means.

DAVID YEAGER: So the idea from basic developmental psychology is that human beings are walking around with kind of prior belief about objects, about motion, about number, and then later about complex social structures like whether people are looking down on me, where I stand relative to others, and also little lay theories about adversity. What does it mean when I have to put in effort? What does it mean when I fail?

DAVID YEAGER: So the idea is that if you understand the theory someone has, then you'll understand the meaning they'll make about a future experience.

DAVID YEAGER: And therefore, well, and the reason meaning matters is because the way you interpret something then affects how you respond to it. Right, so if I see someone and they're doing something innocuous but I interpret it as a threat, do I call the police?

DAVID YEAGER: Do I run away? That's my interpretation. That's causing it, right? And so there's a long way of saying it turns out one of the best ways to preset someone's meaning and give them a different theory is to give them a different story.

DAVID YEAGER: Stories are kind of like theories in motion. This is why, you know, like what's the point of war and peace, right? War and peace is really a theory of great leaders in the war. And if there's any English PhDs, I'm sure they'll tell me that's an oversimplified version of what Tolstoy was doing. But you learn the theory in a narrative way, right? So this is the classic idea throughout human history.

DAVID YEAGER: Great writers and authors give us theories through narrative, right? And so we're just taking. That simple human fact and doing it in a 10-minute activity. And the lay theory in a person's mind that when things are difficult, it can change.

DAVID YEAGER: Can be taught with a very simple narrative, which is this person or even I experience difficulty in something that mattered to me. That difficulty didn't determine my entire future because actually there were steps that I could take in order to make a difference. Here are the steps that I took, and then it improved.

DAVID YEAGER: So it's the simplest Freytag's pyramid. And even though that simple story is available to all of us, you could look in culture and see it, you also see the opposite lay theory all the time. And so without, absent our intervention, it's not like people couldn't end up with a growth mindset.

DAVID YEAGER: But they wouldn't kind of know what to sort for or what to look for. So we give them some touch points for a very simple of like frustration, things can change, then they got better. And we think that once people do that in our writing exercises, they're more likely to see that pattern out in the world.

DAVID YEAGER: And if you see that enough, and then you take the actual steps to get better, then it starts becoming true for you. And that's what I call the recursive process that you... We give people a starting hypothesis about the world. They go out, try things, struggle, fail. It improves.

DAVID YEAGER: Then they see that that's true and then they can keep acting on that over time.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: I feel like so much of getting better at things involves.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Reappraising the stress or anxiety response. You know, the friction that one feels when they can't perform something well or when things feel overwhelming or confusing. And I think the analogies to physical exercise apply, but I feel like they're limited in the sense that I like the idea that the brain is like a muscle, that it can grow and get stronger.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: I think the key difference to my mind is that, you know, like working out with weights. You get some sense of the result you're going to get because there's like a lot of blood flow into the muscles. So it's like a hint of what's possible with cardiovascular exercise.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Like if we run hard up a hill, there's that moment where your lungs are burning, et cetera. And anyone who understands exercise knows that that's the signal for adaptation such the next time you can do the same thing without the burning of the lungs. When it comes to mental work and learning, I think...

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: We immediately assume that if we're not performing well, if we're getting confused or overwhelmed, that somehow we're doing it wrong as opposed to stimulating the growth. And so are there any studies that point to bridging the relationship between the physiology, you know, the stress response and the mindset that...

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Allows one to say, okay, this is really hard and I keep failing and failing and failing at this math, at this language learning, at writing this essay, whatever it is. And that's exactly what I'm supposed to be doing. It's like the burning of the lungs or it's like the failure to complete another repetition in the gym.

DAVID YEAGER: Yeah, I mean, I think that you're right.

DAVID YEAGER: You know, the standard growth mindset message. It does have reappraisal components, specifically around something Carol Dweck has called effort beliefs, which is very simply the belief that if it's hard, it means you're doing the wrong thing. And that follows naturally from the fixed mindset idea that ability can't change. And I think it's very important to point out.

DAVID YEAGER: The centrality of that effort belief because people have tried to apply growth mindset but simplified it in a way of just saying, basically, try harder. Or I believe in you. If you try hard enough, you can do anything. But if your natural inclination is to view the need for effort as a sign that you are doing the wrong thing, which is that's the default interpretation, then people are going to quit.

DAVID YEAGER: If you believe effort outs you as lacking potential, And then I say you need to try hard. I'm saying you don't have potential that basic insight is very poorly misunderstood in the field and it's led to tons of misapplications of Carroll's work.

DAVID YEAGER: And then people are like, well, this thing doesn't work. Well, okay, but you haven't addressed the effort belief. So I think that... The first type of response to what you've said is...

DAVID YEAGER: You can't just abstractly tell someone your brain is a muscle and assume that magically, then in the midst of stress and frustration and confusion and all those negative experiences, that you're going to immediately say, yes, I love doing this and this is great. Am But then there's also the physiological component, as you're saying.

DAVID YEAGER: When we're stressed, frustrated, confused, your heart starts racing. Maybe your palms get sweaty. Your breathing starts getting heavier. My daughter is 13 before a cello audition. It's like I have butterflies in my stomach. What does this mean? And I think that...

DAVID YEAGER: Growth Mindset Research didn't always...

DAVID YEAGER: Deal with the visceral experience of stress and frustration. And I think in a world in which someone hears the growth mindset message and says, yes, now I'm going to go challenge myself. I'm going to embrace stress and frustration, do the mental equivalent of running ladders or running up a hill.

DAVID YEAGER: Then they feel that stress, but if they don't know how to interpret that, it's like growth mindset isn't going to get them to the skill development, right? Or at least to the mental well-being of feeling like they have confidence and can do well.

DAVID YEAGER: In some research that we've done in the last few years, what we've tried to do is to marry together the growth mindset idea with great work originally coming out of Ali Crum and Jeremy Jameson's labs, who were building on lots of great appraisal psychologists, Wendy Mendez and others, to say, okay, in the inevitable experience where if you fully believe our growth mindset and then now you load your plate with challenges, but now you've got a physiological stress response.

DAVID YEAGER: How are you going to appraise that better? And that's kind of been the new frontier of growth mindset work in the last four or five years.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Yeah. Could you tell us more about this stress is enhancing mindset? I think it's a really interesting one, especially when it's woven in with the growth mindset.

DAVID YEAGER: Yeah. So let me tell you kind of.

DAVID YEAGER: That on its own. And then, and then the, the story of how we had this insight is actually kind of interesting too. But just the basic idea as, you know, people who've heard about Allie Crum would know and Jeremy Jameson is that you know, an experience of your heart racing, your palms sweating, anxiety in your stomach.

DAVID YEAGER: That is itself a new stressor that then needs to be interpreted and appraised by the person experiencing it. Um... That idea on its own is kind of revolutionary for people. People tend to think...

DAVID YEAGER: That Your physiological arousal is this objective experience that is universally bad. Allie Crum calls that a stress is debilitating belief.

DAVID YEAGER: And I think that's a good label for it. It's this idea that...

DAVID YEAGER: That heart racing, palms sweaty, butterflies in your stomach is a sign of your impending failure and doom and it will always interfere with your performance. And the implication therefore is if you were about to do well on whatever you're going to do, then you wouldn't feel that way, right?

DAVID YEAGER: Allie Crump calls us being stressed about being stressed. And that I think it's a really common experience right now where people are like, well, if I was a confident, good person who was about to do well, I wouldn't be sitting here feeling so stressed about how stressed I am. And it becomes this metacognitive layered loop of just being stuck in your own mind and interpreting your arousal in the most negative possible light.

DAVID YEAGER: So that stress is debilitating belief doesn't people aren't like wrong for having come to that belief because it's everywhere in our culture. One thing I do in my class a lot is I just have people Google image search, stress management means. And first of all, a surprising number about cats. I don't know why people think cat pictures are the way to convey complex scientific ideas.

DAVID YEAGER: It'll be like a cat with a cookie jar, and it'll be like growth mindset. I don't understand what the point of that is. But page two or three after all the cats, then you get to... A lot of things that are, you'll see a person with a battery that's empty and it's like, they didn't de-stress or 10 tips for de-stressing. And it'll be like, go on a walk, drink chamomile tea.

DAVID YEAGER: Like, and the underlying implication is that if you're stressed, then you need to distract yourself. You need to get rid of that stress. But alternative explanation in the growth mindset world is, well, maybe you have something that's very important to you and you've pushed yourself to embrace some challenge in a really admirable way.

DAVID YEAGER: And. That has filled your plate in some way. Like if I was about to give a presentation to a senior vice president at work, and I'm stressed about it. I should not like go take a bubble bath and like go for a walk. Like I should get ready to kick ass at the presentation.

DAVID YEAGER: And so I think what what Ali Krum and others have identified is that you can think differently about that stress. You can say this is actually a sign that I'm preparing to optimize my performance. And maybe the heart racing isn't.

DAVID YEAGER: My body being afraid of damage, maybe it's my body getting more oxygenated blood to my brain and my muscles to like help me do really well. And that's called a stress can be enhancing belief. And what's so interesting, I think, about this work, and I want to give credit to lots of other people, is that if you're in the stress is debilitating mindset, you don't realize that there's an alternative.

DAVID YEAGER: You just think that that's the way it is. So it never occurs to you to say, oh, this stress is helping me. But once you tell people this, What happens is in our studies, we actually see a change in stress physiology. Changing your mindset about stress in turn changes how your body reacts, which then becomes a different stressor that you can interpret.

DAVID YEAGER: And so the big insight was pairing. These ideas about reframing stress as an inevitable force that's going to destroy your goal pursuit into a resource to be cultivated and pairing that together with the first step, which is the growth mindset that causes you to... Like be open to the challenge in the first place.

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ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: It's really designed to support all of the systems of your brain and body that relate to mental health and physical health. If you'd like to try AG1, you can go to slash Huberman. To claim a special offer.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: They'll give you five free travel packs with your order, plus a year supply of vitamin D3K2. Again, that's slash Huberman. I feel like so much of what human beings struggle with. Such as... Learning and performance, our relationship to stress, etc.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Could be resolved if we could overcome the deficit in language. Here's what I'm thinking. We're talking about reframing stress to make it performance enhancing as opposed to performance diminishing.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: I wonder if we replace the word stress with just like levels of arousal, but then people hear arousal and they think certain kinds of arousal. So what you want to do is, you know, the way I think about it is like a continuum of readiness, but then that doesn't work because readiness can be readiness for sleep, which is a low level of arousal.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: You don't want to be highly alert and then you're not ready for sleep, right? So there's a real deficit of language where I think if there was some other word, I don't, I can't come up with it on the fly where, you know, one's internal level of readiness.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: As opposed to stress. And maybe it looks a lot like autonomic arousal where heart rate is increased and blood pressure is increased. And people would say, oh yeah, that's my body being ready for something as opposed to stressed about doing it.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: And it's kind of a trivial recasting of stress on the one hand, but in terms of kids learning about life and stress and arousal and these internal signals and adults learning about those and incorporating those into their life goals. I think it would be pretty meaningful.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: And again, I don't have a solution to this, but I feel like everyone here, stress is bad. You hear stress is enhancing. Okay, great. But I think it's really about developing a language that lets us interpret what's going on in our bodies.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: And compare that to what we are facing in the moment and just decide, is this well-matched or poorly matched to what we need to do? Is it great for going to sleep? Is it great for learning? Is it great for catching that train that's, you know, soon to leave the station? And I just wonder, Why the deficit in language?

DAVID YEAGER: Yeah, I think it's a profound question because small changes in language.

DAVID YEAGER: Perpetuate problematic lay theories, Because they have the baggage on them. And I think that let's think this through. So what the psychophysiologists like to point out is that there's a distinction between the stressor, which is the let's call it the internally or externally imposed demand. It could be something that's thwarting your goals or The exam.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: The difficult conversation, the for some people going to the doctor or the dentist.

DAVID YEAGER: The hard conversation with somebody you care about. It could be or a physical stressor, right? Like a football game or running a marathon, right? So anything that imposes demands on your body and mind and therefore will require resources, like metabolic resources to do well. That's a stressor, okay? Then there's your appraisal of it.

DAVID YEAGER: That's what you name it, how you interpret it, how you frame it in your mind. And then there's your response. People in general. Conflate the stressor with a stress response. When they say stress, they're like, I'm really stressed right now. Well, really what you mean is that there were stressors.

DAVID YEAGER: You appraise them as more than you can handle. And then you had a threat type stress response, which means that your body is preparing for damage and defeat. And that is like an inheritance of... How the sympathetic nervous system evolved, which was to keep us alive from threats, mainly physical threats. And so if you have a stressor, some demand.

DAVID YEAGER: Praise is something you cannot handle, and then your threat type response. Your body's basically assuming you're going to lose whatever physical fight you're in, like the bear's going to tear you apart. And then your main goal at that point is to stay alive and bleed out more slowly.

DAVID YEAGER: So you end up with more blood kept centrally in the body cavity, less in the extremities. The body releases cortisol because it's an anti-inflammatory. It's going to help with tissue repair 45 minutes down the road. So there's a whole cascade of... Physiological response is that come in part from the mental appraisal that this stressor is more than you can handle.

DAVID YEAGER: Now, we're very rarely... Confronted with those kinds of physical stressors these days. It's often social stressors. But a lot of these social stressors are the threat of social death. Right, like a ninth grader coming into high school getting bullied by all their friends and are excluded because the friends in eighth grade now treat you like you don't exist.

DAVID YEAGER: Right? The threat of social death is pretty bad, right? Or you're a new legal associate and you've filed your first brief and all the partners are like, this is garbage. We're not going to send it to the client. Right? Like all of a sudden you're on trial socially in front of these people who could cut you loose at any time.

DAVID YEAGER: That's a very vibrant social stressor that evokes the same kind of physiological response as we suppose a physical one would, right? And so we're very careful to distinguish in our studies a stressor from the stress response because Often the stressor isn't really a bad thing.

DAVID YEAGER: Getting critical feedback on your first legal brief as a junior associate, well, that could be awesome. It could be like, oh, great, I have these awesome partners at my great law firm are now giving me personalized feedback. That's useful. Or I'm a ninth grader and I have to make new friends, but I don't know, maybe you need new friends.

DAVID YEAGER: That could be a good thing. And same with a test, same with a presentation to senior vice president, whatever it is. Stressor is... Often in our daily lives are not good or bad. Now, of course, there's traumatic stressors that are really bad for people.

DAVID YEAGER: But then the appraisal is really where there's a lot of leverage. And if you think that the stressor is inevitably bad and that your response to it is always harmful, then it's really hard for you to think that you have the resources to meet the demand that you're facing, and you end up in this threat cycle.

DAVID YEAGER: So in a lot of our research, what we try to do is give people a different story to tell themselves about a stressor and about their response. So that way they end up in a better place.

DAVID YEAGER: And I don't know what that better language is, but I will say I once gave a talk at a middle school and a high school. And I used slides that Jeremy Jameson, who's my collaborator, had sent me that had the word arousal on it on every single slide. And that was a big mistake in a room of like middle school kids.

DAVID YEAGER: I strongly recommend different terminology.

DAVID YEAGER: And I was a middle school teacher. I should have known that you can't say that word in high school.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Right. Yeah, I think that there needs to be a better language. I think if people of all ages understood the autonomic nervous system, this aspect of our nervous system that is on a continuum that leads us to either be, I guess, at the extremes, you would say, coma would be the deepest state of parasympathetic non-arousal.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Then ascending from, you know, very, you know, deeply asleep, lightly asleep, groggy, awake. Awake and alert, awake and alert to the point of being highly alert. And then you get into kind of low-level panic and then all-out panic attack, right? And that's kind of the continuum, the autonomic continuum.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: I feel like if people understood that and they could simply ask, okay, where is my body and mind along that continuum? And then compare it to whatever it is they face, then we'd have a better sense of whether or not we were in the correct, maybe even optimal. State for, for dealing with challenge or, or not.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: And along those lines, what is the optimal internal state for dealing with challenge that is just outside our ability? You know, maybe in an exam where I can naturally get 85% of the answers correct, but maybe 15%. I think this is what the machine learning and AI tells us is probably the appropriate level of difficulty for something in order to best learn. I know that's probably. Yeah.

DAVID YEAGER: It depends on if you're motivated and if, you know, a lot of things, but yeah, I mean, I think. If you think of the autonomic arousal on just one axis, where you start running into problems we find is that I think you're right that there's like, you know, coma to like some arousal or meaningful arousal.

DAVID YEAGER: But it's the middle to the end part where there's two different tracks. And one track is very high arousal, but you're terrified of... The damage and defeat and the humiliation and the failure. And so that's... That's demanding all your attention. That's what we call a threat.

DAVID YEAGER: Type stress. There's another version that is... Again, very high arousal, but that's like you're stoked. And you feel confident you're going to do well. And that's also very high arousal. And if you just look at... Arousal measures like pre-ejection period, right?

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Could you explain pre-ejection period?

DAVID YEAGER: It's just a simple measure of just the sympathetic nervous system that we use in all of our studies.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: So sympathetic, just to remind folks, is one aspect of the autonomic nervous system. It has nothing to do with sympathy. It's just the more alert. It means more contribution of the sympathetic arm of the autonomic nervous system. Sorry, it's a mouthful. And then less alert would be more contribution of the parasympathetic arm of the autonomic nervous system.

DAVID YEAGER: And PEP is just a measure that we use in our laboratory studies.

DAVID YEAGER: And another could have been like skin conductance, which is about the sweat coming out of your skin and then we use an electrode to figure out how much is there.

DAVID YEAGER: Those kinds of measures can't distinguish what we call a challenge type state. That's almost like people have heard of flow where you're optimally balanced between important challenge you care about and resources and ability to overcome or at least deal with that challenge. On the positive side. In the other high arousal state, which is threat.

DAVID YEAGER: And that's, again, everything's highly engaged, your whole stress system, but you don't think you can deal with it. So that becomes really important because here's a very practical example. If you look at devices people are wearing to detect their stress, that might say high or low arousal, but it can't distinguish between super good positive challenge type stress and really negative threat type stress.

DAVID YEAGER: One of the examples that psychophysiologists like to say a lot, I got this from Jeremy Jameson, is imagine you're at the top of a double black diamond about to ski down. If you are a good skier, your heart rate isn't probably low. You're probably amped up. You're stoked. You're like, this is awesome. I can't wait to do this. You're fully confident. You're going to make all the turns and have a blast.

DAVID YEAGER: If you're a terrible skier, you're just imagining the yard sale that's about to happen. You're about to crash, you're going to fall down the mountain, you might die. Also high arousal. If you're wearing like the regular watch that will just detect sympathetic nervous system activation, it wouldn't be able to tell the difference between really stoked to do something positive and terrified of like crashing and dying.

DAVID YEAGER: And so I like that example because often in social situations or performance situations, you want to be high arousal to perform your best. But you want your perception of that demand, the demand that's requiring your body to respond, to be matched with an equal belief or what we call appraisal of your resources to meet that demand.

DAVID YEAGER: So I think my answer to the question is, well, I think it's not so much about what's the optimal amount of demand. So the 85 percent likelihood of success rate problems that's titrating demand. I think it's... How do you pair?

DAVID YEAGER: A necessary level of demand for whatever goal you have with the perceptions of the resources. And sometimes those resources are your internal... Like just confidence, you know, or sometimes it's your ability to reappraise. And other times it's material resources.

DAVID YEAGER: Like, do you have a, it could be in real life, do you have a friend that you could turn to? Or it might be, have you been trained in a way where you're able to overcome this? Do you have enough time? So resources can be a big bucket.

DAVID YEAGER: And that's kind of the magic is because resources are appraised by the mind in our interventions, we can give you a different way of viewing your resources. So that way, People feel like they can meet the demand and that pushes them from a threat type response into a more challenge type response.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: It makes sense. If I think that the stress, for lack of a better term, and the effort is going to get me where I need to go eventually, I'm going to be far more willing to invest the effort. Especially if I'm motivated. I want the thing that lies at the finish line.

DAVID YEAGER: You basically take the demand, which was your intense stress and worry, and turn it into a resource in your own way. Mind and it turns out that that actually helps people cope at a physiological level got it got it.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: We've been talking a lot about kind of the nuts and bolts of growth mindset and stress. Is performance enhancing mindset. Maybe we could shift a little bit to the discussion about what you call the mentor mindset. And as we do that, maybe we'll weave back in some of these, some of these concepts. Yeah. Your book 10 to 25.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: It focuses heavily on social appraisal, self-appraisal, basically the idea that we want to be liked and we don't want to be disliked. And it hurts when people say mean things about us or when we hear negative feedback, especially if it's provided publicly. But ultimately what we do with that information is what determines whether or not we grow and move forward.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Everyone loves a great report card. Nobody likes a poor report card. So Tell us about mentor mindset and both for folks in the 10 to 25 age range, but also for everybody, you know, because it's clear that this impacts us throughout our lifespan.

DAVID YEAGER: Yeah. So the, the, the work I write about comes out of a dissertation led by Jeff Cohen at Stanford in the nineties with Claude Steele. And they coined a term that they called the mentor's dilemma. And the mentor's dilemma is the idea that if you're a leader, a manager, a coach. Teacher, whatever it is, parent, it's very hard to simultaneously criticize somebody's work and motivate them to overcome and embrace that criticism.

DAVID YEAGER: And the reason it's a dilemma is because the leader on the one hand wants to maintain high standards by being critical, maybe in order to help the person grow, but that could crush the person's motivation. The alternative is withhold your criticism. Don't say the truth. Hide all the critical feedback.

DAVID YEAGER: And be nice and super supportive. But... And that meets your goal of being friendly and caring, but it doesn't help the person grow. So it feels like we have to walk through the world stuck between two bad choices. Either you're a demanding, autocratic dictator who doesn't care about human feelings, or you are a low-standard, wimp pushover that's giving in to the wimpy demands of the next generation.

DAVID YEAGER: And neither of those have... Uniformly positive connotations. And the classic example in Jeff's work was a student at Stanford who writes the first draft of an essay and then gets really harsh critical feedback from a professor. Are they willing to revise their work? Or do they say, this teacher hates me, they're biased, I dislike them, and...

DAVID YEAGER: Leave the comments unaddressed.

DAVID YEAGER: So the solution to that in that research on the mentor's dilemma has been to say two things. One is appeal to the very high standard you have for someone's work, but also always accompany that appeal to the high standard with an assurance that if they implement the feedback and use the support, that they're capable of meeting the high standard.

DAVID YEAGER: I like to think of it as, like if you go to the roller coaster and they say you have to be this tall to ride, right? So just saying you have to be this tall and you're not, see you later, isn't reassuring to somebody, right? But if you can say, here's the standard, and I believe you can meet it, but it's going to be hard, that means a lot.

DAVID YEAGER: It means I'm taking you seriously. It means I believe in your growth. And it's a kind of leadership practice that makes growth mindset be something that comes to life and feel true. It's not just an idea in your head that you're growing. It's like I live in a social world where people are going to push me to grow and not leave me alone.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Are you familiar with the book of the late? I think. The pronunciation is Randy Pausch for the last lecture.


ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: He was a computer scientist. He developed a lot of early online portals for kids, in particular young women to learn programming. I think it was called Alice.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: And he is known for what's called the last lecture. He was diagnosed with cancer. He eventually passed away. But he talked about in his book lessons that were important for life. And one of the things that he said was the.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: The thing to worry about is not when your mentors and coaches are pushing you. It's when they stop pushing you that you should really worry because that means they've basically given up on you. So that always rung in my mind.

DAVID YEAGER: Yeah, what I call the person who just is no longer maintaining high standards for you, I call that a protector mindset. That it's almost like it's going to be too much trouble to see you dealing with stress. From being pushed that I am going to protect you from that stress.

DAVID YEAGER: I maybe I care about you but I'm not going to hold you to a high standard. And I see that a lot in coaches. I see it in teachers. I see it in parents. For me, the opposite problematic version is what I call an enforcer mindset. This is like, here's the standard.

DAVID YEAGER: And I'm going to hold you to it, and it's up to you to meet it or not. Right, that's kind of like the college professor that says, look to your left, look to your right, half of you, you know, are going to be gone by the end of this.

DAVID YEAGER: For me... The solution is to think about taking the best parts of both of those two. What's the high standards and high support? So enforcer, great, you've got the standards. Let's add your support. Protector, you care a lot. Great. Let's add the standards.

DAVID YEAGER: And what Jeff Cohen and Claude Steele found in their initial study is that students were far more likely to view negative criticism as a sign that the teacher cared for them if it was accompanied by a transparent and clear communication of these two elements of high standards and high support.

DAVID YEAGER: If it was just the critical feedback, the professor could have meant the same positive thing, I'm caring about you, but they didn't make it clear to the person, then participants were less likely to think that the professor was on their side.

DAVID YEAGER: And in our work, in some small studies, we showed that even seventh graders, when they get critical feedback on their essays, are about twice as likely to implement the teacher's critical feedback with even a very short invocation of the high standards and the high support.

DAVID YEAGER: So to get to your question about mentor mindset, at some point I got worried that our experiment on high standards, high support messages, which we called wise feedback in those studies, would be viewed as a... I don't know, like a magic phrase. Like my joke, my laugh line, this is a lame laugh line, but I'm a professor, so that's the best I can do.

DAVID YEAGER: My laugh line was always, I just live in fear that Pearson and other textbook companies are going to sell wise feedback posted notes and say they can magically erase the achievement gap. And I always said that as a joke, and then two things happened. One is a popular author, a guy named Dan Coyle, literally called it magic feedback in his book, didn't cite us, but like...

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: You didn't say this? No. Dan.

DAVID YEAGER: But also like magic.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: I'll say it so you don't have to. Not cool. Attribution is important.

DAVID YEAGER: It's just not, it's not magic at all. The magic of high standards and high support is not... The 18 words. It's I'm taking you seriously in a moment when you're vulnerable and I have power over you.

DAVID YEAGER: That is just so deeply human and so powerful. But there's nothing about the magic words. It's the...

DAVID YEAGER: It's the experience of dignity and respect when you are questioning whether you are either worthy of it or going to be given it by authorities.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: It's interesting. We had Dr. Becky Kennedy on here to talk about parenting. Oh, yeah. And she said many important things, but among them was the fact that children, perhaps all people, want to feel real.


ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: And they want to feel safe. Yeah. An important concept that I think many people heard and are really interested in. Internalizing. I know I am for sure. And this idea of feeling real has to do with not just feeling seen, but that people believe us, even if they disagree with us. Yeah. Like they believe us.

DAVID YEAGER: She has another thing that's super profound is the kind of two things argument that I can both have high expectations for my kids and love my kids. And I think that's a very good version of wise feedback mentor mindset.

DAVID YEAGER: That as parents, it either feels like I can expect a lot of my kids, but then I'm a monster and they're going to yell at me or I'm going to be a pushover and then they're going to be unruly. And I think part of her wisdom is to help explain to parents how you can do both of those things.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: And indeed one can, right? But it requires having a kind of dynamic stance or dynamic mindset as the teacher, the leader, the coach, the parent. I'd like to take a brief break and acknowledge one of our sponsors, Waking Up. Waking Up is a meditation app that offers hundreds of guided meditations, mindfulness trainings, Yoga Nidra sessions, and more.

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ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Again, that's slash Huberman. I want to get back to some of the mechanics of how to go about that. But why do you think this stuff is so hard? Like if we think about, I don't know, kind of a... Curbside evolutionary theory, meaning I don't have any formal training in evolutionary psychology.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: You could step back and say, like, I don't know, maybe we just used to be so busy from morning to sleep that we didn't really have time to do anything except the stuff we needed to complete in order to feed our families and take care of our communities, et cetera. And now a number of things are outsourced. And so here we have this notion of strivings.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: But then again, you know, we went from hunter-gatherer. Cultures to writing War and Peace and everything else, technologies of all kinds. So there must be something in the human brain that causes us to strive. And what we're really talking about here is striving and our relationship with striving.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: So if we were to step back and just say, okay, what do you think? Determines whether or not someone feels they can do better. Is it early success? You know, they tried at something. I mean, everyone, most everyone, I assume, who tries to learn to walk, walks, learns to speak, speaks. You know, they're rare exceptions. But, you know, what do you think this whole thing about strivings is about?

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: And when we talk about growth mindset, stress is enhancing mindset, the mentor mindset, I mean, are we trying to get back to activating systems that are hardwired within us? And that have been kind of masked by daily life? Or are we trying to kind of better ourselves and our species through, you know, like really trying to do something that's never been done in human history before?


ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: It's a big question.

DAVID YEAGER: But I mean I think that all I can do is conjecture, you know, as a scientist. But I'm often reminded of something I heard from Ron Dahl, who's a Neuroscientist at Berkeley.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Not Ronald Dahl, the children's doctor.

DAVID YEAGER: Not Rald Dahl. Ron Dahl. Although Ron is just. So this is an awesome guy. It's like just polymath who can do everything and just so curious and generous. He what he always says to me is like, look it's like, David, what do you think the human brain wants to do? Like, I don't know.

DAVID YEAGER: Feel good. He's like, no. He wants to feel better. And I think what he was trying to get me to see is that it's the kind of pursuit of some kind of delta and Yeah, a change from the state.

DAVID YEAGER: And I think the argument is that even if you are If what you thought was your biggest need, if that was satisfied, then there's always like another thing I think is part of the argument. And so but it's also this idea that if you think of the human brain as trying to learn at all times, like what is it trying to learn?

DAVID YEAGER: And the at least in the animal studies, as you know, often it's like how do I either feel better or avoid feeling worse in a lot of ways. And I think that as I think about adolescence That's a period where your theory of how to feel better is dramatically changing because you're no longer fully cared for by adults.

DAVID YEAGER: All of a sudden, your criteria for feeling good about yourself is your social standing, not just in your parents'eyes, but in the eyes of the community in the milieu you're a part of. And that comes a lot from your contribution value. If you think in our evolutionary history, being ostracized and alone is certain death in ancient history.

DAVID YEAGER: Human cultures, right? I mean, you can't, the tribe's wandering around in the savannah, you're alone. At a minimum, you have no one to watch out for you when you fall asleep. And so, humans can't sleep in trees because our muscles don't contract when we're asleep, unlike animals. And so, you're just exposed on the ground.

DAVID YEAGER: If you're alone, eventually you're going to die. Right. So the fear of... Moving from parents taking care of your safety all night to now you have to trust peers to take care of you and watch over you. That comes to the forefront of young people's minds, kind of the minute puberty strikes. And so what it means to feel better often is that I'm socially valued by the group.

DAVID YEAGER: There's something, they're going to keep me around for some reason. Now, they don't often keep score in an explicit way. I mean, now things are in Social Media. Maybe they're kind of keeping score. But, like, the rules of how you're doing socially are so implicit. You have to read between the lines. They're inferred.

DAVID YEAGER: Social hierarchy is very... Complex for Adolescents And so they overdo it thinking through. Like, how am I standing? Like, where am I relative to others? Now that process is started by puberty and we know from lots of species work that it then leads to changes in the brain. So the dopaminergic system, of course, is like driven in part by changes in gonadal maturation.

DAVID YEAGER: Ron likes to talk about these great studies of songbirds. How do they learn the mating calls? And if songbirds don't have testosterone, when they... Are learning the mating calls. They don't do the over-the-top obsessive practice, so they don't master them. And then they don't mate and they die alone.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Interesting. Yeah, I'm familiar with that literature. There's a great, unfortunately now passed away, biologist who was first in the UK and then was up at UC Davis, Peter Marler, who studied the birdsong learning. Yeah. It's amazing work. Yeah, it's amazing work and it mimics a lot of the development of human speech, although not exactly.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: There's this babbling phase where babies and birds experiment with different tones. Tones and they're learning to use the pharynx and larynx or, you know, in birds, it's a slightly different system. And some birds are seasonal singers, but I wasn't familiar with this result that the testosterone drives a kind of obsessive practice. Yeah.

DAVID YEAGER: It's obsessive practice in order to demonstrate status, but really your value. I mean, there it's mate value, right? But I think the same thing is true for lots of things that teenagers travel, it could be playing guitar, you know, could be gymnastics. I mean, think about How many of their Olympic athletes are like 14, right?

DAVID YEAGER: And they're waking up at 4 in the morning, they're practicing obsessively. How many like pro-social hackers who take down evil foreign governments, right, are teenagers, right? There are things that take so much practice and so much learning happen at the exact same age as adults are saying these kids are lazy and don't want to work.

DAVID YEAGER: Right? So I tend to focus on, let's get to your question about why do people strive to get better? I think In adolescence, you look around in your social milieu and see what counts for status, not in a superficial way, although it sometimes happens, but often in a deeply meaningful way. What am I going to bring to the table?

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: One would hope. And then I remember junior high school being far more superficial. But I'm 48, so I remember it in kind of the John Hughes film era where people were very divided in terms of jocks and skateboarders and rockers and nerds. Now it seems a little bit more mishmashed.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: But I think also people will in adolescence I feel like kids find their niche and then try and excel within that niche. Yeah. You know, as opposed to high school or junior high school being one huge hierarchy. Yeah. You know, there's kind of these sub-hierarchies.

DAVID YEAGER: Yeah. Dan McFarland is a sociologist at Stanford, did this really interesting study with the ad health data. And it turns out you could characterize the social hierarchies in different high schools by kind of single pyramid high schools versus multi-pyramid high schools. And there's way better adjustment in the.

DAVID YEAGER: Multi-pyramid high schools because there's many roots to status. The evolutionary psychologist Bruce Ellis talks about having many roles. And I like that because in the old model, you know, if there's one pyramid and you're kind of near the top but not at the top, you've got a lot of incentive to destroy reputations, be, you know, mean girls type of behavior.

DAVID YEAGER: Bob Ferris, sociologist at Davis, finds that the most bullying in high school is the people that are like the 60th, the 85th percentile on popularity. It's like you're near the top but not all the way at the top.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Yeah, this maps very well to Robert Sapolsky's work on primate troops. Yeah. Yeah, the alphas are stressed, but the sub-alphas are they have options. Yeah. And this is true for female and male animals.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Just as it's true we were talking about testosterone a few minutes ago in obsessive practice. I will remind people that in women they actually have adult women have more testosterone than they do estrogen if you look at a pure nanogram per deciliter comparison.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: It's just that overall it tends to be on average less than in men. So the statement about testosterone and obsessive learning or efforts to learn, I have to imagine is not restricted to males or females.

DAVID YEAGER: Yeah, and I think I understand as a man praising testosterone that I could come across. But I so I always need to remember that the research is very interesting on tea.

DAVID YEAGER: So, Eveline Krohn's lab did these great studies where they had kids starting age 10 to like 25, and they had them come in the lab twice, and they took testosterone levels, but also had them do a bunch of tasks in the scanner. And you can look at nucleus accumbens, prefrontal cortex, et cetera.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Errors associated with reward. Yeah. And pursuit, motivation. Yeah. Yeah.

DAVID YEAGER: And they also had them do risk-taking tasks. And what they find is that in both boys and girls, testosterone goes up over time. It starts a little earlier in girls because gonadarchy is one or two years before boys. But the change score from one point to the next was equally predictive of neural reactivity during risk-taking tasks for both boys and girls. So although boys end up with higher T throughout adolescence.

DAVID YEAGER: The increase is equally predictive, which is another way of saying it's just as important for these social learning things in girls. And tea, by the way, is just a really good... Testosterone is a really good proxy. Other hormones are involved too. They're just more complicated. Like DHEA, you could...

DAVID YEAGER: Study as well, but that's part of the same metabolic pathway of cortisol and testosterone. So it's just messier and harder to interpret. So we're not making claims specifically about testosterone. It's just like a really good proxy for where you are in gonadal maturation. And both boys and girls, gonadal maturation really matters for this kind of status, social seeking part of your brain.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Yeah, so if I understand correctly, the slope of the line of one's testosterone increase for both boys and girls is predictive of striving. If it's a steep upward line, then that's associated with more striving in a given practice.

DAVID YEAGER: To the extent that like neural activation during a social reward task or a risk-taking task is a proxy for striving. And that's what a lot of people have argued.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Do you think that striving reflects the action of a, you know, kind of a basic neural circuit that then can be applied to other things or lots of different things? The reason I ask is that, you know, the notion of growth mindset is so attractive.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: It's such a sticky idea because, or I think because one imagines, okay, if I can get really good at one thing, chess, then I can apply the same kind of relationship to the internal state of stress or arousal or what You get a new environment of another kind, a physical practice or a relationship challenge or something of that sort that you know, what we're really talking about here is an algorithm that can be directed at different pursuits as opposed to growth mindset is applied in one context and not another.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: So what of that? People who are incredibly good at accessing growth mindset in one domain of life, does that mean that they'll be good at accessing growth mindset in another domain of life? What's the carryover or the spillover?

DAVID YEAGER: It's a great question. It comes up a lot. The Michigan State psychologist, Jason Mosier, studied this and they measured growth mindset about your intelligence, the classic one, your personality, your morality, your social relationships, your emotions, etc. And the question is, Is there kind of like one growth mindset that applies in all the different ways or are there?

DAVID YEAGER: Totally narrow mindsets that have nothing to do with each other, or is it something in between? And the finding was that there is an overall association. If you think one trait can change and be developed, you tend to think another trait can be changed and developed.

DAVID YEAGER: And just empirically, it's hard to separate that from people's general tendency to disagree or agree with items that could be what the common factor is. But it kind of makes sense. However... There's also very domain-specific mindsets. So there are people who think... Yeah, I can get smarter, but I can't change my shyness. And other people would think.

DAVID YEAGER: My relationships are never going to get better, but I can learn to play the cello, you know, and vice versa. And when you want to predict behavior, it turns out that the closer you are to that domain, the better the prediction is going to be. So if I want to know if you're going to quit playing the cello or not, I'm going to ask you your cello mindset.

DAVID YEAGER: That's going to do way better than, in general, can human qualities change. But if I'm going to intervene. At what level should the intervention happen? If I only change your cello mindset, well, you're right. Like what if cello isn't your thing in life? Now are you going to be fixed mindset for your relationships in school? And did I not really help you?

DAVID YEAGER: So, um... The Kind of the empirical answer currently. Is If it's a... Domain that someone could be really defensive about. It's better to be a little vaguer about it. A classic example is Iran-Halperin's work on the Israel-Palestine conflict, which is obviously a big issue right now. Their science paper in 2011.

DAVID YEAGER: Changed mindsets about group conflict in general. Can an ethnic group or a national group ever change? They didn't go to people in Israel and say, Palestinians can change. Because they're like, no, they can't. That's not possible.

DAVID YEAGER: But if they said, you know, sometimes leaders change, and when leaders change, the group's priorities change, and they become more amenable to negotiation. And when that happens, things can change. If that was done at a more general level, then both Israelis and Palestinians were more open to a peace process.

DAVID YEAGER: So I think if it's something you're very defensive about, I tend to think. Back up and do the more abstract mindset. Another example is I remember I was in graduate school at Stanford and one of my RAs was so excited about our work and he went to a party and talked about it. It's like that very Stanford thing to do is talk about research at a party.

DAVID YEAGER: And he's like, oh yeah, math ability can change. You don't have to be dumb at math forever. And the person he talked to was so offended. She was like, are you telling me I could have done better in high school math and I just didn't try hard enough? And my life could be different.

DAVID YEAGER: I could be an engineer right now. Like I like my life. Why are you telling it was it went down this road of like how dare you tell me it could have been different and I, who knows, maybe he had bad delivery and had 14 margaritas and that's, who knows what happened. But I think the idea is like, if, if someone's got a reason to.

DAVID YEAGER: Think about that fixed mindset as...

DAVID YEAGER: Comforting in some way, that they don't have to feel bad about something that could have been different, it's probably not smart to go after that in a very specific way. But if someone's not defensive, generally the closer to the domain, the better, because they're going to see the application. Otherwise they have to use it by analogy, and we know analogic reasoning is tough because it's hit or miss.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: We love stories of people that have come from a place of being really back on their heels or even just dissolved into a puddle of their own tears to doing well again, maybe even soaring again. It's sort of the common thing is that this is the classic American story, although it's true of people all over the world, I imagine.

DAVID YEAGER: It's not always true in America either, but yeah.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Right. Some people crash and burn, but it seems like everybody loves a comeback story. Right. I don't know. Something about that.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: The hero's journey, the hero of a thousand faces, is that the book, Joseph Campbell? Yeah.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: And it's written into so many movies and books and real life stories. I can't help but superimpose today's discussion onto something like that, right? That, you know, that life is a series of efforts to apply growth mindset from learning how to walk, right? So it presumably is part of that, right?

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: I don't know any child that just stands up and walks early on to the things that we really think we can perform well at to finding ourselves like really back on our heels. And so are there any data or theories even that point to the use of growth mindset and stress is enhancing mindset in coming from a real place of deficit?

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Not just from trying to do better and learn new things, but from a real place of deficit, a real place of challenge. I think it's important for our audience to hear because I think a number of people do feel back on their heels in one or more domains of life.

DAVID YEAGER: Yeah, it's a good question. I mean, I think that the data suggests that growth mindset becomes most relevant to your next behavior the more challenge you face.

DAVID YEAGER: And so for a long time what that meant is if you maybe were a low-achieving student and we're going to evaluate growth mindset by looking at your grades, you should see bigger gains for low-achieving students compared to high-achieving students. Part of that could be an artifact. If you already have straight A's, we can't give you more A's. It's impossible, right?

DAVID YEAGER: You know, in general, psychological treatments like a growth mindset tend to work better for people who counterfactually wouldn't have them and could plausibly benefit from them. Where the story becomes more interesting is that often your kind of own individual difficulties are associated with your environment.

DAVID YEAGER: And the environment is really what allows you to apply your growth mindset over time. So it might make you right now need a growth mindset more. But it might make it harder for you to act on it. And so for people who like complex three-way interactions, the idea is that a treatment for growth mindset should work best for individuals who face the most challenges but are in the most supportive environments.

DAVID YEAGER: And one is like baseline, why do you need it? And the other is over time, what's going to help you keep using it? So to be very concrete about this, in one paper we published in 2019, the National Study of Learning Mindsets. It was published in Nature.

DAVID YEAGER: Evaluated growth mindset in this large national sample and the question wasn't does it work on average, the question was where does it work and for whom. There were lots of replications already and sometimes people tried it and didn't work here. Okay, well that's a puzzle. How do we figure that out? And the finding was low-achieving students...

DAVID YEAGER: In high schools that had a more supportive classroom culture, where you got the long-run effects. And in the four-year results, it's low-achieving students in high schools that offered more advanced courses. So if you're a low achieving student, you get with mindset, it's like, great, give me pre-calculus. Oh, we don't offer that here.

DAVID YEAGER: Or it's a toxic environment in some way. Their teachers are untrained. They're first-year teachers. There's lots of poverty in the school. If you don't have the structure to support the striving, you don't get the long-run effects, especially if the effects you're looking at are increases in equality of opportunity. So for me, the message is, Like...

DAVID YEAGER: Think about growth mindset and psychological interventions as one tool in a toolkit to help people achieve their goals. But we can't forget about the entire field of sociology that tells us a lot about the allocation of resources through which people can even be afforded the chance to pursue their goals.

DAVID YEAGER: And so what I like about that finding, which by the way came from a collaboration with sociologists who thought, you psychologists are absurd. They're like, you think your little mindset is going to change inequality? You're going to make an argument to 15-year-olds and that's your plan for improving the American economy. That's absurd. I was like, well, I don't know. You could do something.

DAVID YEAGER: And psychologists are skeptical sociologists. They're like, look, how often do we have huge changes in law and policy? But people don't take advantage of the resources that are available to them. Let's change the behavior so they take advantage. We kind of came together and said, What does it look like to consider both the structure and the internal psychology?

DAVID YEAGER: And I think this was a very important point because People tend to choose one or the other. Either we're going to lobby for new laws to reallocate resources, or we're going to optimize the psychology of the individual. And I think our perspective is... To find ways to bring those two together and kind of do both. Amen.

DAVID YEAGER: And ultimately it's not a deficit-based perspective of you have a deficit and we're fixing that. Growth mindset is more like, well, it's an asset-based perspective. What I mean by that is we're not giving someone motivation in growth mindset. We're presuming people already kind of want to do well. They want to impress others.

DAVID YEAGER: They want to be meaningful. They want to contribute. But there's a barrier. The barrier is... When you strive and then inevitably struggle, if you're pushing yourself beyond your abilities, people make you feel dumb for that struggle. So we're trying to remove that cultural and social barrier that's preventing people from their natural goal pursuit.

DAVID YEAGER: And that comes deeply from Carol Dweck's original work at the intersection of developmental and social psychology. The basic claim in developmental psychology is the human being is an active learner who's trying to figure out the world. This is classic Alison Gopnik, Susan Gellman.

DAVID YEAGER: Infants are meaning makers trying to interpret the world. And wanting to do well. And eventually they're socialized into beliefs that prevent them from acting on that basic neural desire to learn, grow, develop, et cetera. And growth mindset is really, it's not trying to be a magic pill to give an unmotivated, disaffected kid a shot in the arm of adrenaline so they go out and learn.

DAVID YEAGER: No, it presumes agency and love of learning and kind of like Dr. Becky said, it presumes the goodness. In kids and tries to remove whatever kind of garbage beliefs they've learned. From social context. And then our long-term studies then Show how.

DAVID YEAGER: Once you do that, if you're also in a context where you can act on that love of learning. Then you can see long run effects that are far more than what a lot of people have said you could get even in a disadvantaged context.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: It's so interesting because what we're talking about here is psychological theory playing out in the real world, but also kind of like deep notions of the human spirit. Like we are a species that seems to... We organize our experience in terms of stories of ourselves and others, but that when it comes to things like strivings and learning. I'm really always in a constant state of either...

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Being more, to borrow the words of a friend of mine, either back on our heels, flat-footed, or forward center of mass, right? And what we're talking about today is being forward center of mass, at least in certain areas of life. The fact that the reward systems of the brain, you mentioned them earlier, these mesolimbic reward pathways that basically deploy dopamine and other things, of course.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Are so associated with striving and achieving, striving and achieving, and presumably underlie. Much, if not all of our human evolution, assuming we're still evolving lately. I sometimes I wonder, but some people would argue we're devolving, but I would argue we're still evolving.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Especially with this new burst in AI. It's all about math nowadays, folks. A few years ago, it was all about neuroscience and neuroscience is still really important and the two share, but it's all about math lately.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: So I like to just think of the human animal as so different than the other animals of the planet. Like we're the curators of the planet. The house cats might be striving, but they're clearly not doing as well as we are in terms of managing the way the world goes.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: So what do you think that this is like a basic algorithm within human beings to Look at ourselves, look at the environment, see challenges, overcome challenges, develop technologies.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: It's just kind of like a it's like the same way my bulldog used to like to gnaw on things. You like to chew and pull. We just want to learn and grow. Do you think it's inherent to who we are as a species? Maybe even what sets our species apart from all the others?

DAVID YEAGER: I mean that's a profound question. I think that's a good one to debate.

DAVID YEAGER: What I've been really taken by recently is Carol Dweck's Secret Life as a Neuroscientist. She has this great psych review paper. That contradicts a lot of received wisdom about prefrontal planning regions of the brain and the kind of amygdala and the hippocampus, the affective regions and the memory creation regions.

DAVID YEAGER: And the classic argument in going back to Plato and the Phaedrus, right, is that the rational acting part of the brain plans out what it wants, makes all these calculations, and then has to tame the emotional part.

DAVID YEAGER: In order to make those goals into a reality. And so the emotion, the amygdala, the mesolimbic, that's this unruly horse that the charioteer has to harness. And I think that Carol argued, and I think other people have argued too, I've seen Adriana Galvan and Ron Dahl and others argue this, that...

DAVID YEAGER: The affective regions are often the teacher and the pre-funnel is the student. And that makes sense if you think about how humans are goal-directed. Think about how a kid learns to walk. They don't do that for theoretical reasons.

DAVID YEAGER: They don't just like look at people walking and be like, I want to learn how to do that. Right. I have four kids. It's usually because there's a toy at the other side of the room that they really, really want and that I don't want them to have. And the only way for them to go get it, because I won't get it for them, is for them to learn how to walk.

DAVID YEAGER: So the motor learning is the effect of the desire in the goal pursuit. And what Carol argued is that… And Phaedra's hat is totally wrong. It's not that the prefrontal charioteer is taming the emotional.

DAVID YEAGER: It's really that the affective part is training the prefrontal to be better at pursuing the goals that matter in the social milieu that you have. And a lot of people like Adriana Galvan and Jen Pfeiffer and Nim Tottenham in the adolescent space have...

DAVID YEAGER: Shown this, and I don't understand all the details fully, but the argument that I've heard is that once the scanning studies were able to switch from fMRI focused on simple activation to studies looking at connectivity, where you could get temporal ordering, then you could start seeing actually that, especially in adolescents, it's the same thing.

DAVID YEAGER: The affective regions are training or teaching or telling the prefrontal regions what to do. So I guess that's a long way of answering the question of, I think goal pursuit is fundamental to human nature.

DAVID YEAGER: And I think that the brain and our adaptation is designed to help us learn how to be a lot better at pursuing whatever goals will help us survive in our environment. And the brain has to be adaptive to that environmental input because the environment's always changing. If it had only one way of pursuing its goals, then we would never survive.

DAVID YEAGER: So it has to be the case that the planning, rational, observing part of the brain is actually responsive to what works. In your context for goal pursuit. So again, I'm summarizing other people's work here, but that's how I see it. Yeah.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: I completely agree that emotions drive the more, it's called tactical circuitry of the prefrontal cortex. Of course, we should be fair to the neuroscience. The prefrontal cortex is part of the limbic system. People often think because it's in the cortex, it's higher order. And that's simply not true. But, well, if we both agree, and it sounds like we do, that emotions drive tactical decisions that drive action and learning.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Maybe we could talk about that. Two major types of emotions that one could imagine. One is I really want the toy. I really want the piece of food. I really need something for survival or for well-being, and so I'm going to be motivated. Prefrontal cortex will work out the strategies and balance out the relationship to stress, et cetera, and remind ourselves that stress can be performance enhancing.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: And eventually we, we, we get the thing or the skill or the whatever. The other would be fear, fear of social shame, fear of staying in a place that's not good for us financially, emotionally, socially, et cetera. Is there any work that, identifies whether or not that the core emotion driving motivation is relevant and is there a role for growth mindset there.

DAVID YEAGER: That's interesting.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: I guess to put simply, take it down out of the ivory tower a little bit, which is what we're doing here anyway. You can do things out of love. You can do things out of fear. You can do it for both reasons too. You can do things to please yourself. You can do things to please others.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: You can do things to avoid others being disappointed in you, you being disappointed in yourself. Presumably it's both. Yeah. But is there any... Yeah. I'm dying for you to tell me that when we do things out of love, we learn faster, but maybe that's not the case.

DAVID YEAGER: Well, I don't know. I mean, so two thoughts. One is just, you know, honoring Danny Kahneman, who just passed away. His work with Amos Tversky took on a version of this question in prospect theory. And it's the idea of does the fear of a loss motivate us more than the prospect of a gain, right? And their argument.

DAVID YEAGER: Is that both can be motivating as well as the possibility of a loss, but that losses loom larger. That people are more willing to take a risky gamble to prevent a loss than they are to get a numerically equal, like a mathematically equal gain. And so a lot of people have used that information in various ways.

DAVID YEAGER: And I think that that has led people to conclude that the prospect of a gain doesn't mean anything. But that really wasn't ever the point in prospect theory. It's just that it's a little more powerful to avoid, to be afraid of a loss. I don't see a problem with thinking like, yeah, losses are a little worse. You know, if I...

DAVID YEAGER: Already had a thousand dollars and you took it away feels a little worse than the chance to win a thousand I didn't win mathematically it's the same delta But I think that the way that behavioral economic work gets applied is to appeal to people's kind of basis and most fearful responses to things. And if you think about what What drives a lot of excellence?

DAVID YEAGER: In moral exemplars, too.

DAVID YEAGER: It's this chance to feel like you've made a big contribution to others. And I don't think people are afraid that they... Didn't help as many people as they could have. And maybe that drives some people. But I think just the affective forecasting of one day I'll feel good because of the meaningful work I did for others that was high integrity when no one else would have seen it.

DAVID YEAGER: I think that's really motivating for a lot of people. And I think we underappreciate that, and therefore we appeal to very narrow self-interest. And my favorite theorist on this is Dale Miller at the Stanford Business School. And he calls it the norm of self-interest. That if you look around, it looks like everyone's behaving for only very narrow, short-term self-interested reasons.

DAVID YEAGER: And because you think that's the norm, then you yourself kind of respond to those incentives. And then you... Then in turn create that norm even more that other people see. But it's not a state of affairs that anybody really likes. Everybody kind of prefers a pro-social world where people are helping others.

DAVID YEAGER: But if you think that's just a really weird thing to do and not normal, then people conform to the wrong norm. So in my work, what I try to emphasize is not that we're not afraid of losses and the narrow short-term gain that we're avoiding or the short-term loss we're avoiding.

DAVID YEAGER: But I really do think that people are capable of far more beautiful contributions to the world when we assume that that's what they want and we create opportunities for them to do that. I've seen that so much. You look at some of the best managers, right? It's not just if you screw up, you're going to lose your bonus. Like that's not what the best managers in the world are doing, right?

DAVID YEAGER: They're like, let's do something no one's ever done before. Let me support you to do it. And then let me make sure that you look awesome in front of all the senior vice presidents because you did that. Like that's what the best managers do and coaches too. This, from my book I interviewed the NBA's best shooting coach.

DAVID YEAGER: And this basketball player named Shane Battier, who played college and pro basketball, told me about him. And I interviewed Chip England is his name. And he was at the San Antonio Spurs, which they had a 17-year run of being a perennial contender for the NBA championships. And constantly drafted players who...

DAVID YEAGER: Were talented but had a bad jump shot. So Kawhi Leonard is an example, where he fell late in the first round because people thought he couldn't shoot. Tony Parker is another example. When Tony Parker used to shoot, Greg Popovich would say, that's a turnover every time. Chip England is a great shooting coach, worked with them.

DAVID YEAGER: There's lots of, Bill Barnwell had a great story about him, called him the shot doctor. And I interviewed Chip. And I was like, Chip, how do you sell the vision to these players who are 18 to 21, are newfound millionaires, everyone's saying you're the best, you're a first-rounder, and they don't want to change their shot because if they do...

DAVID YEAGER: They could mess it up, make it worse. Like a golfer is superstitious about their shot. And he's like, you know, the number one thing I have to do is build trust because I can't critique a player's shot and make them change it if they think they're going to sacrifice more. So he's like, Dave, the first thing you have to do is sell your vision.

DAVID YEAGER: I was like, well, what's your vision? He's like. He doesn't say, if you don't change your shot, you are going to lose millions of dollars and be out of the league. So he doesn't motivate with a fear of loss. He says, the average time in the league is two and a half years, right? If you develop a great, reliable jump shot where even as your athletic talents decline, you're still reliable, you're talking about a 10-year career.

DAVID YEAGER: And then you're not just helping you, you're not just helping your family, you're helping your family's family. So even in the money-obsessed world of professional sports, the single best coach working with the top players appeals to the prospect of what you could do for others, not the fear of loss.

DAVID YEAGER: And to me, that's really telling. Like if it works to just motivate with the fear of loss, then that's what he would do because they would do whatever's effective. It's like at some level an efficient market. But that's not what Chip England does. And I think the same is true for a lot of other great mentors and leaders.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: So if I understand correctly, When we find ourselves.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Back on our heels or flat footed.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: We want to focus on the prospect of what we can do for others. Like ultimately that's going to be the best, or the world or the world. Yeah. I guess. Yeah. Pick your, pick your scope of, yeah.

DAVID YEAGER: It could be for art, for intellectual history. It's, it's a classic Viktor Frankl argument of man's search for meaning, right? As the, as Viktor Frankl is leaving the, the concentration camps, what helps him survive? And it's the debt that he owes to the future work that he wants to write to share with the world. And it's not the fear of death. It's the meaning of the work he could do for the world if he survives.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Yeah, I think I'd like to hover on this for a minute or two, because I think it's really important. I realize we're getting more philosophical than operational.

DAVID YEAGER: But we've made on this.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Yeah, I'd love to hear it. That's one of the things I'm really enjoying about this conversation. The moment I think it's going to be abstract or that you've got, you got it all there in that brain. Yeah, let's talk about this. That when we feel back on our heels or we're flat footed, meaning we're not doing well.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: I don't know, maybe hard things have happened. Focusing on the prospect of what we can do for others, not just trying to avoid loss or further shame or just diminishment is going to be the best thing. So what are the data on this?

DAVID YEAGER: Yeah, so we'll first just look at correlational studies in these global surveys of happiness.

DAVID YEAGER: And almost anyone you can think of, the best predictor of life satisfaction and well-being is going to be the meaning of your life, in particular, the feeling like you're connected to others, you've contributed to others.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: That your life mattered.

DAVID YEAGER: There was something of value in your life to others or to the world.

DAVID YEAGER: Just anecdotally, the advice I always give to people going through depression or the risk of that is to focus on what you can do for others or what you have done.

DAVID YEAGER: That's just correlationally.

DAVID YEAGER: We did in some work, this started with my first advisor at Stanford, Bill Damon, who studies purpose in life. Is we ask the question of when you're going through something tedious, boring, frustrating, What motivates you to keep going?

DAVID YEAGER: And there are many possible answers to that, but we compared two different ones. One is... The potential benefit you get out of that striving. So for a student in school, it's like the money you would get one day. From working hard and doing well.

DAVID YEAGER: An alternative, though, is what you could do with the knowledge that you gained by going through the hard learning. How could you contribute to others, make a difference, et cetera, with the knowledge and skills? We call that our purpose condition. A couple things make that.

DAVID YEAGER: Different from the standard narrative, but I think ultimately intuitive. One is the standard narrative is if you try hard in school or at work or whatever it is and suffer now, then one day there will be a kind of financial compensation.

DAVID YEAGER: So you're suffering now in a way that will bring material reward in the future. The brain's not really designed to make that kind of calculation, right? It's like, well, how certain is the reward in the future? How far into the future? And how bad is the punishment right now?

DAVID YEAGER: So there's all kinds of affective trade-offs that are hard for anyone, especially hard for 13-year-olds. So what a lot of school comes down to is an adult saying, you need to suffer through 40 minutes per day of factoring trinomials because I said so, and I said it's good for your long-term future so that one day in your 30s you can barely afford a mortgage.

DAVID YEAGER: Right? This is not a compelling argument for most of America's youth, my opinion. The purpose condition, though, is not about the exchange value of a credential some long time in the future. It's more like right now.

DAVID YEAGER: You're getting a hard and kind of admirable skill that not everyone's going to get. And you're going to then be prepared when the moment arises to do something of significance for others. Now, that also is uncertain and in the future. But for things that are contributions, you kind of get to feel like a good person right now.

DAVID YEAGER: The analogy I often use is if I'm going to like make lunch for the homeless, I don't have to wait until they actually eat the food to feel like a good person. I feel like a good person when I'm putting it in the bag or even when I'm driving to the homeless shelter. And I think our idea was you can move up the reward by making it a social reward right now. Rather than a material reward years into the future.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Because then the pursuit itself becomes the reward.

DAVID YEAGER: Right now, my and actually the more frustrating it is right now, the more I'm being a good person because it means it was a hard skill to acquire that will prepare me to make a difference later. And so we framed super tedious math. This is with Angela Duckworth and Sidney DeMello and Dave Ponescu and others as Marlon Henderson as a chance to gain a skill that helps you contribute versus.

DAVID YEAGER: A chance to learn how to get an A and make money in the future versus a control. And what we found was that the contribute to others version led to deeper learning, greater persistence, higher grades over time. And in one of our experiments, we gave them a choice of either doing super boring math or goofing off on the internet, and we were secretly tracking what websites they were going to.

DAVID YEAGER: And we found that teenagers did more very boring math and watched fewer videos and played less Tetris when they were given this purpose message before the task. It's in our 2014 paper. And what I always think about, that's the kind of paper I wanted to go to graduate school to work on. But I think about it because if you think about Dale Miller's norm of self-interest.

DAVID YEAGER: Nobody thinks to do the purpose argument. They're like, of course teenagers are short-sighted and think about material rewards and all they want to do is either look cool or make money or whatever. But no, like in our studies, if you appealed to the chance to make a contribution right now, then they did the behaviors that adults want them to do. They didn't goof off online and instead chose boring math.

DAVID YEAGER: And adults think the only way you could ever get that is by imposing our will and with this kind of authoritarian set of rules, but if you instead just appeal to the love of learning for the sake of others. Then they're willing to kind of go through the suffering. And in the paper, we cite Viktor Frankl where the person who knows the why for their existence is able to bear any how.

DAVID YEAGER: And I think about that a lot, that we underestimate how willing young people are, really anyone is, to bear through things that are hard and difficult if they have a strong why.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: I think this is one of the most important concepts, frankly, ever discussed on this podcast, if I'm really honest. I think that...

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: You know, we've parsed dopamine circuits and we've talked about motivation and reward. We've talked a little bit about growth mindset in a solo episode, but never before have I really understood the why component, the meaning component.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: And I love how it marries so much of what we hear in kind of like, you know, pop culture, psychology with real data. Like we're finally, thanks to you being here, meaning we're finally in the guts of it.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Because we hear this like, oh, it feels so good to make a contribution. But, you know, people are also self-interested. Yeah. People want money. Then people say, well, past a certain amount of money, you don't get any happier.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: And I would argue that it's true money can't buy happiness, but it can definitely buffer stress. Yeah. Not all forms of stress. And money itself can get people into more stress. But anyone that says, you know, past blank number of dollars, there's no incremental increase in happiness.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: I just don't see how that could be given inflation.

DAVID YEAGER: It treats humans like linear functions. I think that's a simplification.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Right. If higher purpose is best defined as making a meaningful contribution to the world, to a community, or maybe at the scale of the world, maybe at the scale of a family or what have you, a classroom. And the thing that you said before that seems so important is that the moment that you attach... Your goal to something that's for others. It makes the effort involved.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Its own form of reward. Yeah. That to me is so important. Yeah. So, so important. I kind of want to highlight bold underline and, you know, put a big exclamation Mark after it because that's so different than like, Oh, you know, I want to be the top player on the team. Yeah. Which means that every bit of effort you put in, you're like thinking, I'm going to, I'm going to be the best.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: But, And one perhaps can then feel that progress when one is making it and feel like they're ascending that staircase. But something additional must come about when we're...

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Invoking this feeling of contribution.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: And I think this is central to our evolution as a species because we didn't develop in isolation.

DAVID YEAGER: Yeah, I mean, we had to show our value to the group or else they would get rid of us, right? I mean, that's what it meant to go from being a child to being an adult. And think about what it let's take basketball or whatever, right? If I'm trying super, super hard and it feels impossible to me and I'm not getting better and it's purely for me, then I feel like a failure.

DAVID YEAGER: It feels like my goals are not being met and they never will be met, right? The effort feels terrible because it means something really bad about me, right? Now imagine you're putting an effort for others.

DAVID YEAGER: The harder it is, the more awesome it is because it's more noble, right? You've done something that's super impressive and sacrificed your own happiness for others. You Right? The social status of... Trying hard and failing for yourself is net negative. Because it's about shame, humiliation, I'm not good enough, the status of trying hard and failing and keeping going for others is like super net positive, right?

DAVID YEAGER: And I think that's what people fail to appreciate is, especially someone young or even just early in a career, right, starting out, if you can reframe difficulty and failure as part of the process of doing something with high integrity for others, like it...

DAVID YEAGER: Changes the meaning of effort totally. And once you have a different meaning, then something that previously felt bad can instead be motivating, whether it's the stress, like in our stress-enhancing work, or the boredom you're undergoing that's doing something super tedious.

DAVID YEAGER: Or anything like that. I remember when I was at Stanford as a graduate student, I worked in the lab of John Krosnick, who is famously detail-oriented. Whenever we want to go really deep into something and go beyond what any other scientist would do, our joke name for that is giving it the full Krosnick. He's in communications and political science.

DAVID YEAGER: There was one project I was supervising where, this will sound ridiculous, but it was what is the best adjective to use in a survey item? So say you want to go, like, how hungry are you? Not at all, very, extremely. Like, what adjective should you pick to label those in a survey item?

DAVID YEAGER: And so the task was to find every time that human beings have rated adjectives on a 0 to 100 scale in the history of science, and then average across all those, to choose optimally spaced adjectives, like... Not at all, a lot, a little. So we had a lab full of undergraduates. At Stanford, who are used to creating startups and running nonprofits, and this is very tedious work for them.

DAVID YEAGER: So how do you get them to super pay attention to all the details and not get it wrong, where we really kind of trust their work? It's not by saying, you know, you're going to get into law school if you do this because it's not really true. And they'd be like, there's a lot of other ways for me to get into law school that don't involve going to journals from the 1920s to rate adjectives, right?

DAVID YEAGER: Instead, what I started doing was give them what I call the save the world speech, which is like, look, we're going to. Write this paper. And it's going to be the kind of paper that... No one would have done, because it's so tedious.

DAVID YEAGER: But if it's trustworthy, thousands of people would know how to have more accurate measurement. And they're going to be so grateful for that. But not only that, there will be skeptics, and the skeptics are going to look in our supplement, they're going to find mistakes, and then they're going to email the editor, and they're going to say, why did you let this sloppy work into the journal?

DAVID YEAGER: And that happens all the time. I mean, I don't know how much you follow what's happening in behavioral scientists these days, but if you have an influential finding, That's the norm is people should scrutinize it. They should kick the tires and they're going to find it and they're going to out you.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: And they're doing more of that now, like with PubPeer, which I think is great. PubPeer is awesome. PubPeer, folks, is where papers are evaluated online. People find sometimes outright errors. And sure, there are those like sleuthing for like Yeah.

DAVID YEAGER: You find fraud.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: For fraud. But most of what's put there is stuff like differences in interpretation or somebody will suggest that you know, the authors could have done a better analysis or that maybe their conclusions were a little too far reaching based on a particular set of methods.

DAVID YEAGER: And I think it's good for science. I mean, there's a lot of bad intentioned sleuthing that is trying to find circumstantial evidence to make someone look bad.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Is that true?


ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Really? Yeah. That's a shame because the whole purpose of it is to better the work, not to... I'm assuming the whole purpose of PUP here is to better the work. And of course... Um... Point out where there are real errors in the historical literature. Right.

DAVID YEAGER: Well, I think that the yes. There's a new way to become famous in science, which is to like find errors, which again is really valuable if you successfully do it. But there's enough room for interpretation that someone can with circumstantial evidence only, make it look like something's really bad and then cause an alarm and it causes all kinds of problems.

DAVID YEAGER: However, for me, at least in our lab, if you always assume that someone will look at your work with the worst possible intentions, and we'll ask for every file, how did it get from Qualtrics into your paper? Just assume that all the time. Then that means you need to pay as much attention to the file that was downloaded and how it was processed, and every part of the pipeline has to be documented.

DAVID YEAGER: You just have to do that. And so working with Cross-X Lab, that's the process that we adopted. And there's all kinds of people emailed, like, wait, this... Show me this finding. Like, okay, here's the link to the server. Here's the syntax. You can go find it, et cetera, et cetera. So good scientists should do that.

DAVID YEAGER: And so the possibility of scrutiny and catching fraud should motivate everyone to treat it as though it's an inevitability and therefore... You know, be careful in your process. Convincing 19-year-old Stanford undergraduates that that is likely to happen, you know, and that therefore you need to pay super close attention to the details, that was my task as a lab manager.

DAVID YEAGER: And so there it was a mix of the fear of... Shame and humiliation, but also ideally the contribution that our work will make. And we had the hardest working RAs we've ever had that summer. And that's not an empirical claim.

DAVID YEAGER: That's, you know, I say that not, I didn't randomize the undergrads to that, but that experience kind of gave me the idea for the purpose studies was, you know, assume people want to do good work, but all else equal, they might find an easier way to do it. And then motivate with. An appeal to how this work could make a difference, how other people could be influenced by it.

DAVID YEAGER: And also, if you don't take it seriously, it'd be a really big deal, it'd be really bad. And I think about that a lot because we don't often appeal to the contribution value of the work. We appeal to getting a good grade and impressing people. And that's less important for me than did I get a skill and did I do high-quality, high-integrity work.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: So what you're basically saying is that if we attach our motivation to the give, to the contribution that we're going to make, it actually makes the process much easier. Or at least more rewarding along the way. As well as...

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: By definition, contributing more positively to society.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: It's causing me to reflect on what we normally perceive as like high achieving individuals. So often, it seems like we hear the stories of like the Steve Jobses. And I really enjoyed that book by Walter Isaacson and that story of very...

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: You know, impressed by his contributions, although he's a complicated person, as is often the case with people that make big contributions, it seems. Or people in the political sphere or people in the academic sphere or the sports sphere.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Most often we think of them as striving for themselves, maybe for themselves and their family. And then there are these people that really stand out as these shining examples of like Martin Luther King and others where we just are kind of in awe of how mission-driven they were for the greater good.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: What sort of work is being done to encourage that kind of mindset, the contribution mindset, growth mindset through contribution mindset, just coin that contribution mindset.

DAVID YEAGER: That's more words in there.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Right, exactly. That's all it needs, more mindsets. But the contribution mindset, because I think at least in this country, we are often raised to revere people that make big contributions, but then we get really absorbed into that person's story. It's like the story of the person and what made them tick and then there's a lot of ego in it or they have a kind of obsessive nature to them.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: And we don't know what goes on in other people's minds. We're so I must say there's a certain arrogance in our in all of our perceptions of others like that we know what they're why they're doing what they're doing. Half the time we don't even know why we're doing what we're doing. But I think you get the idea here.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: What I'm imagining is a more benevolent world where people also enjoy striving more and the The driving process itself, while hard, has meaning and people are not egoless, but where there's a bit more balance. Are we getting a little bit like we, you know, kind of looking at this through rose colored glasses? Or I think it's possible. I like to think it's possible.

DAVID YEAGER: Yeah. I mean, I think that the version that in which people are purely. Pro-social and self-transcendent and have no self-interest, you know, is not super realistic. And it's not actually what our data are finding. So what we find is that adding this pro-social contribution argument has a big effect.

DAVID YEAGER: But if you do it absent any plausible benefit the person would get, it tends to not be motivating. So it's the combination of, let's just take the school case. I'm going to learn something, gain a new skill. I'm going to get a job that I enjoy and that gives me freedom and make a contribution to others. We found it was the addition of the pro-social part to the self-interested part.

DAVID YEAGER: Now, if it was do X, Y, Z and make lots of money far in the future and then give that money away, that didn't work because that's still the same logic of sacrifice now for later financial reward, which then has an exchange value of some ambiguous amount in the future. That one didn't motivate kids or students to want to-Don't tell the philanthropists that.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Universities depend heavily on philanthropy, especially nowadays. And we're grateful to them that they support so much good work. So you're saying that it makes sense that there needs to be some component of self-interest, right? Like jobs, loved design. Right.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Presumably folks like Elon and others love the mechanics of what they do, building rockets, building electric cars and things like that. But then there's this pro-social thing, the idea that the world could be better and different with these things in them.

DAVID YEAGER: Yeah, if you did the work right. I mean, a good example is my friend Daniel Kredic, who ran Empathy Lab at Google for a while and before that worked at Apple and other places. You could think that designing products at a large tech company is purely about is that product going to sell a lot, make a lot of money, etc.

DAVID YEAGER: And that's obviously part of the value for the shareholders and so on. But her philosophy was always, okay, what's going to happen with the user? What does the user need? Is their life going to be better with this product? And that often led to design choices that made the product even better and more profitable.

DAVID YEAGER: And I think there are a lot of examples of that where, you know, when the team is trying to create something that is high quality but with integrity and ethics that are going to benefit people, people are willing to put in extra hours. They're willing to. Solve a puzzle, do better work. I think there are a lot of examples of that.

DAVID YEAGER: That's on the product design side. I also want to talk about the management side. One of the people I followed from my book is a manager at a company. She was at Microsoft. Now she's at a place called ServiceNow. And I just studied how she mentored young employees. Her name is Steph Akimoto. And, um...

DAVID YEAGER: She has this great story about a really awesome 25-ish employee, 25-year-old-ish employee showed up. And had come from teaching Teach For America, and now is in HR at Microsoft. And Steph could immediately tell. Her name is Solonie. She's going to be bored by her regular job. She's going to be able to do more than what she had to do.

DAVID YEAGER: But as a manager, you can't say as the first thing, you need to do twice your job for the same amount of pay. That's not a good management philosophy. So instead, it was a conversation. All right, what's a contribution you want to make to the company where in making that above and beyond, you're going to learn a new skill that's going to help you move up the ladder?

DAVID YEAGER: So that in your next performance review, you're going to look like a superstar, like a total over-performer. And so at the time, they were running global manager development. And so what they decided was, don't just deliver the programs well, which Steph thought she could do well. But also create a dashboard to track everyone's progress.

DAVID YEAGER: So every new hire, they would know where they are in the management process, and it was global during the pandemic, so kind of a complicated time. Anyway, she did her regular job really well and created this whole dashboard, which brought value to the company, big contribution. But then when it came time for performance evaluations, she could say, like, you're already performing at a level two levels up.

DAVID YEAGER: That gave her promotional velocity. She moved up. She left the company for a while. Now is the chief of staff, HR at Microsoft, kind of in line to lead Microsoft. And then what about Steph? Well, Steph's team overperformed, which was incentivized. But then she gets to go home saying, I use my time as a manager to change someone's life. And that brings her so much joy.

DAVID YEAGER: And it's just so much fun as a teacher. To have some of our time with young people lead them on a path they wouldn't have been on otherwise. It is a total blast to mentor someone and change their lives. So I think that's a good example of, it's in everyone's long-term self-interest to contribute to both the company and the people around you. But no one's being a martyr. They're not really, like, also everyone's compensated.

DAVID YEAGER: So you need to think about, of course, is the company going to pay you if you help others improve? And there's important questions to be asked there. But I think that's a good example where we have a false dichotomy of it's either good for me or I'm a martyr helping others. But, like, the best work is both. And then it feels awesome because you both change people's lives and you're compensated for it. And that's great.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: It certainly has been my experience that doing things that I love, like learning and organizing and distributing information with the specific intention of people benefiting from it, should they choose to use it or apply it or think about it, is the best of both worlds. Yeah. Certainly.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Let's talk about this other phenotype, the people that and they do serve a role in the world. Yeah. Folks that whose sole purpose seems to be to critique, to identify errors. And I think in the case of catching like real like fundamental flaws and stuff play a key role. We need those, right?

DAVID YEAGER: And it's kind of unfair that as a scientific field we force a small group of people to have to police everybody else's work. Ideally, they wouldn't have to do that job. And so there's a lot of value in the people who have developed very honest and high-integrity tools to find mistakes.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Yeah, I think some of the AI too. For finding errors, at least in, you know, in, in data sets.

DAVID YEAGER: Right. Like the images in a neuroscience study where you can tell that the images have been altered.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Or plots. Like I remember a few years back, the Reinhart shown cases of the, he was like this wunderkind who published, I was like crazy numbers, like eight or 10 papers in science and nature per year. And then I think it was actually similarities in the noise, the random quote, in quotes, noise plots that eventually led to.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: The understanding that there was data duplication or something. Anyway, I don't remember how it went. Yeah, it's important to correct the literature that way, right? But then there seems to be, at least online and on Social Media, there seems to be kind of a short-term incentive. I have to imagine there's some incentive for people just being really critical. Like I was thinking about this the other day.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: What kind of mindset would one have to just randomly go put a nasty comment on Social Media? Like if you just think about it, not about an issue you're particularly vexed by or somebody's stance on. Like that makes sense, right? People get aggravated. Yeah. But just think about the mindset there. Like, oh, you've got your life, you have time, and you're going to go like.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Say mean things, right? Like, like to me, it's as inconceivable to do that online, like to go and just post that stuff. But, but clearly there's something, there's some incentive built, built there. And I don't think this is a new thing.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: I'm guessing that before we had online culture within medieval societies and there were these, these elements exist within us. And that there must be some. Reward. They must feel some reward. But it's not generative. It's not building society. When appropriately placed, I guess we're saying it provides a corrective mechanism.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: But what do you think that's about? And is there any literature on this kind of thing?

DAVID YEAGER: Yeah, well, not the exact example of...

DAVID YEAGER: Being a total jerk on online. I mean, I, I can't imagine doing that because who has the time? I mean, I coach baseball. I don't know how I'm going to like police other people unless it's relevant to my work. And I think someone's like not having integrity and what they're doing. I'm like, you guys are being sloppy.

DAVID YEAGER: And I might say that, but what I, what I find compelling is a beautiful new book by Mary Murphy called cultures of growth, who's trained. I trained at Stanford under Claude Steele. I was also trained by Carol Dweck. Just came out a week ago and is getting tons of great press.

DAVID YEAGER: And in her work, what she finds is that fixed mindset can be a cultural variable, like a more leadership variable, not just in the mind of the individual. And when that's the culture, then she finds people are more willing to try to make everyone else look like an idiot so that you don't get attacked. That's the summary finding.

DAVID YEAGER: And there's a kind of deflection strategy that if I, if I trash other people for being idiots, then it'll make other people think twice before they mess with me. And so but it creates the very toxic culture that they're trying to escape, which is the threat of their own intelligence being attacked.

DAVID YEAGER: So it's totally counterproductive. And she uses the example of Microsoft under the Balmer era where you'd go into meetings and you'd get yelled at if you made any mistake and you weren't allowed to talk. And they would like literally flip over a table and yell at you and people would leave the room crying.

DAVID YEAGER: And this there's a lot of accounts of this as a very public information. And one of the things Satya Nadella did when he came in was to change what he said. He said, we have a culture of know-it-alls and we need a culture of learn-it-alls. And has the virtue of ending in the same word, so it's pithy. But I kind of like that idea. And so Mary describes how in this culture of...

DAVID YEAGER: Genius, she calls it, you don't just get the hypercriticism. The consequence of that is unethical behavior where you hide mistakes or lie about things because you're worried about being outed as not a genius. So the culture of fearing mistakes gives rise to the kind of unethical hiding type of culture. Now, the layperson could draw a line between that and like the Zune and Bing and other like failed products.

DAVID YEAGER: You know, that's, I'll leave that to organizational scholars. Decide if that's the story. But at least the cautionary tale is like Boeing is another example where Calhoun, when he came in as a CEO, changed the incentive scheme at Boeing to be something called stack ranking, which is where you fire the bottom 10% every six months or a year.


DAVID YEAGER: Within your group. So your group might be... Higher performing on average than some other group, but the bottom 10% of your group are getting fired. And this goes back to GE. It's a Jack Welch policy. Anyway, so that happened two years ago, and look what's happened in the last two years. Now he's out.

DAVID YEAGER: You have all these mistakes where people aren't going and finding. The problems. Now, again, I'm not at Boeing. I can't, you know, as a scientist, I can't say that that is the cause. But the argument in Mary's book is that when you have organizations like that culture of genius, you hide mistakes and then you have unethical behavior.

DAVID YEAGER: In order to conceal those, and then you don't fix them. But in what she calls a culture of growth, you're willing to examine mistakes because they're not indicative of a sign that, they're not indicative of your overall inability to do well. They're part of the process of growing as a group.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Super interesting. You said Mary Murphy, Cultures of Growth? Yeah. Interesting. It seems everybody worked with Carol Dweck. You, Claude Steele, Mary Murphy.

DAVID YEAGER: I have a small friendship group.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: That's an amazing group.

DAVID YEAGER: By that, I mean I have no friends except people I work with.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: It clearly landed in a great group nonetheless.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: This is very interesting.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: So people who are hypercritical or spend an enormous amount of time being critical just for being critical sake are masking. They're cloaking themselves. It's a form of self-protection. Yeah.

DAVID YEAGER: That's the claim and I think there's some pretty good suggestive evidence of that.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: It would be interesting if online like everyone had to put some of their CV in their masthead. It's sort of like what have you done as you're attacking. Because that would differentiate the people like Elizabeth Bick, for instance, who I think that's her name, who's considered one of the best data evaluation.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: People, right? She runs on her Twitter account. They essentially she shows errors in papers. And I think the goal there is to offer people the opportunity to not necessarily retract, although in some cases retract, but to alter the papers right or wrong and addendums and things that to say so that's like the appropriate use of critique, right?

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: She's not doing it to cloak anything else presumably as opposed to people that just run around. Trying to poke holes in everything that they see. It's cynicism, really. It's kind of an online cynicism.

DAVID YEAGER: Well, I think it's easier to be skeptical than it is to... Like eventually believe in something after being convinced. And so I think there's a default toward, well, I don't believe that. And we get that sometimes with growth mindset. They're like, well, what do you mean a 50-minute intervention has a well, okay, but all the things you're complaining about are things that we addressed in the study.

DAVID YEAGER: So At some point, you have to just say you believe in the process of science or you don't. And I understand if there were initial studies that didn't follow the process of science or left big holes to be addressed. But at some point, it's like, well, we did what you asked for. So I don't know what to tell you. I'm sorry.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Yeah, I know the growth mindset field has come under a bit of not attack but critique. I know this because in researching the solo episode and this one, one always has to be careful about relying on Wikipedia too much because it's the use of editing.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Editors, legacy editors, and I'll go on record saying that there's a ton of bias and even within the legacy editors, I just, by the way, I'm not just got my page vandalized even more, but I've sort of given up at this point because things are clued together out of context.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: And so I like that if I look at growth mindset on Wikipedia, there's a lot of supportive evidence and then you can get like a two paragraphs of like of critique. Right. And so for the uninformed, they don't know how to weigh that. Right. Which is why we basically need a new system.

DAVID YEAGER: And they kind of want to say on one hand, on the other hand, you know, right. And yeah.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: And there's You know, there's no real weighting. We don't know the expertise of these people where they're gleaning from logs or whatnot. And look, I think it's a great concept. I think that it's just.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: I to me at least, it seems that there's an overwhelming amount of evidence that growth mindset and related mindsets that we've talked about today have immense value. I think it's also good to have competing opinions in any field.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: But I think it as we're kind of Parsing motivation for people that...

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Really want to make a, I don't know, feel their best, do their best, make a contribution to the world. It seems like the default state that the, the fast food, the junk food, the slur, the slurpee, the Twizzlers and the, and the Snickers bar there. I just got myself in more trouble by naming name brands.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: The junk food, is, is in hiding by critiquing because i think maybe there's the man in the arena thing you know that it's easy to be a spectator it's hard it's hard to try and do something real yeah i think that going back to this question of like are you willing to reveal your mistakes or not the Mary.

DAVID YEAGER: Writes a lot about great exemplars in her book jennifer dudna who's oh yeah you know developed crisper famously has a lab that's hypercritical in the lab but then the work stands you know well public and it's someone who could have every incentive to just churn out as many papers as possible and you know for profit etc but instead and i've actually interviewed one of the postdocs from that lab and it's just like an amazing scientific enterprise that i i write about this astrophysics lab at Vanderbilt you with a guy named Kayvon Stassen, who is just a legend.

DAVID YEAGER: As you know, a lot of people would be thrilled to have one nature paper in their lives, like he had five last year. But what he does is mentor probably the most diverse group of physicists in all of America. And he developed what are called bridge programs, where students, often graduate students of color, students who had low GRE scores.... low socioeconomic status.

DAVID YEAGER: They're pre-admitted to a master's program in physics. At a local HBCU, Sorclay Black College University, and then if they do well, then they're pre-admitted to the physics PhD program. And it's a now well-known idea, but the basic concept is, in the old days, you look at just your GRE scores and say, are you smart enough to be a physicist or not?

DAVID YEAGER: And what he argued was that the coin of the realm for professional physics is publishing professional physics. And if you come into a lab and you can analyze data and write a paper and publish it in a journal, then you're a physicist. So he has people come for two years, regardless of your GREs, but as long as you have kind of grit and resilience and a drive, as you're saying, and lets them work in labs.

DAVID YEAGER: And it turns out about 85% of students end up getting admitted to the PhD program. And then they do well. So the first ever black first author on a nature paper in physics is his student. Right? So like a ridiculously high proportion of racial diversity at NASA are graduates of his program, his laboratory, right?

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: And his lab is at Vanderbilt.

DAVID YEAGER: His lab is at Vanderbilt. It's, it's called the Fisk Vanderbilt Fisk graduate program. Interesting. Bridge program. At any rate, for my book, I interviewed him and I was like, well, that's your admission. So what happens? There's still five years when people have to learn to be a physicist. And every day they have a different thing they do.

DAVID YEAGER: So Monday is a journal club, Tuesday is a coffee. But the lifeblood of the lab is Wednesdays, lab meetings, where you, as a trainee, put up your figures in your paper in Overleaf, which is like a WYSIWYG editor for scientific papers, and everyone critiques your stats, your tables, your figures, your narrative, and everyone's just looking at your work and critiquing it.

DAVID YEAGER: And these are all top physicists in the lab. And that sounds terrifying, and it kind of is initially. But then by the time they present at the conference, they've heard everything. And they're doing that far before they're spending three months. Doubting themselves, unable to complete the paper, et cetera, et cetera.

DAVID YEAGER: It's like you just have to do that. You have to face that fear. So it's very demanding, but it's super supportive. And they don't pull punches in terms of the critique of the content. It's, it's, but it's never in question. Whether the comments are coming from a place of believing your potential to be a great physicist.

DAVID YEAGER: And what I like about that is that you're not like... It doesn't feel good at that time to be critiqued publicly, but it feels necessary, and you kind of know that you will measure up at the end of that process and that it's formative.

DAVID YEAGER: I think that's fundamentally what a lot of people, I think, misunderstand about what it takes to help someone become better. They think either I have to be a monster to critique you or I just have to pull my punches. But you can be like Stassen's lab and be super demanding and super supportive, and then people grow.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Sounds like the key thing is to make sure I'm sure the one is gleaning critique from...

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: The correct sources. And this is one of the major issues with kind of just open online critique. While attractive because of the lack of barriers, it means that you have to be a selective filter, right? I mean, you can see this in online comments.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Some people are very impacted by them. And then other people say, oh yeah, well, that's some person in a basement or that's a, you know, like, what have they done? And, you know, but some people just have a thinner skin than others.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: But when you're in a community where clearly everyone cares about the mission, the outcome, the physics, et cetera.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Then you can put trust in the critique. By the way, I find it really interesting that this lab at Vanderbilt is focused mainly on motivation and drive as the key thing, as opposed to some standardized score metric or something or prior experience.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: When I was starting my lab as a junior professor back before being at Stanford at UCSD, UC San Diego, a senior colleague of mine said, when picking students, you have to really evaluate.

DAVID YEAGER: You wait many things right ethics how they do the work etc but the main thing was is just drive are they driven yeah and yeah that turned out to be the case yeah i think it's it's hard i mean it's it's just a case-by-case decision you know like you you don't pick that many students over your career so you don't get to really learn but i think i had a colleague when i started who was like Just told me they just sort by GRE right away.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Just by standardized score.

DAVID YEAGER: By standardized test score. I was like, well, I would never do that. He's like, how about this? How about you take all the low GRE students and I take all the high ones and see who's too better?

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Yeah. I feel like standardized tests in some cases are necessary but not sufficient. Yeah. That there's this other thing that's like nuance and I mean coming up with great experimental ideas or there's just so many examples of people that just weren't good at standardized tests that just kicked out. In their various fields. But there is a correlation there typically.

DAVID YEAGER: I mean I think my issue in a perfect world, standardized test scores would be great for equity because there would be people who didn't get great information in high school about where to go to college or started out in the wrong major and eventually figured out, don't have great GPAs or didn't go to a great college, but they have tremendous ability and they deserve a shot.

DAVID YEAGER: And so I think that argument for GREs makes a ton of sense. The problem is that you can just pay to have someone teach you how to take the GRE and your scores can go up a huge percentage. And so the GREs end up being a proxy. Either for the training you got now, or it's a proxy for how good your 10th grade math teacher was, because it's mostly testing 10th grade geometry.

DAVID YEAGER: And so, again, that's going to be a function of what neighborhood you grew up in and how good your high school teachers were. So what I don't love is, like, I would love test scores if they were about... Meritocracy and equality of opportunity.

DAVID YEAGER: But they often end up being just a proxy for kind of advantages you already had. So, ultimately though, for K'Vaun... The setting aside the GRE in physics was like a hypothesis. Ultimately, the proof that needed to be in the pudding was... Did the students admitted under an alternative means end up producing great physics? And in that case, the answer is absolutely yes.

DAVID YEAGER: And so for me, it's like, yes, consider it or not for admissions, but what are you doing with the students when they arrive? How are you mentoring and how are you training? And how are you breaking the link between whatever advantages they might have had in the past and the work that they can do in the future if they're driven?

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: We've been talking a lot about data and other people. I'd be remiss if I didn't ask you a little bit about you.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: No pressure to share anything you don't want to share. But of all the things you could study, of all the contributions you could make, you decided to focus on this notion of mindsets.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Essentially trying to figure out how people can be their best for the, for the greatest good of the world. This would be the way I would describe it.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Is that just inherent in your, in your wiring or was there something about your experience coming up that makes you value that in particular? Or did you happen to just resonate with, with Carol and folks and feel like, Hey, this would be a great place to place my efforts? Yeah.

DAVID YEAGER: Well, that's an impossible question to, answer because there's no, I have no counterfactual. So a real causal inference person wouldn't allow me. So this is a digression, but so my only real precocious skill is that I can do the splits, which sounds like a weird thing to do, but I can, it's my party trick at weddings.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: You always could? Yeah. Did you do gymnastics as a kid?

DAVID YEAGER: I did. But not seriously, not for very long. And one time someone, another academic, he was like, you can do the splits? That's super weird. I'm like, yes, it is weird. And he was like, how can you do that? I was like, well, as a kid, I was in gymnastics, and then I stretched all the time. And he was like, that is the dumbest causal story I've ever heard in my life.

DAVID YEAGER: There's no way that that is the single, even the most important cause, right? And I just thought, I think about that as like, my whole life I've been. I've been posed with this puzzle of why do I, why can I do this weird thing? And I had told myself that, and I don't think that's even remotely true. I think there's, for whatever reason, it just kind of developed.

DAVID YEAGER: So I can't fully answer your question about why I like got super interested in, in this work, but I will say that out of college, I thought I was going to be a lawyer. And that's because my, my college major was something called the program of liberal studies, which is a great books. Major where you read the great works of history and philosophy and stuff. Yeah. And then you read them in order.

DAVID YEAGER: And so, and there's no lectures allowed, and you can't even read the introduction to the book, so you just have to, like, read Hume and pretend like you can understand it and Kant and stuff like that, and you argue with other 19-year-olds about what it might mean, and I loved it. It was great. I still don't know what Kant was talking about, but I'll figure that out at some point, but then...

DAVID YEAGER: With PLS, the joke is probably law school, which is the answer to the question of what are you going to do with this liberal arts major? And so I thought that's what I'll do. But at the last second, I just had a change of heart. And so I went and taught in a really low-income school in Tulsa, Oklahoma. And I ended up being the sixth through eighth. English teacher, the K-8 basketball coach.

DAVID YEAGER: I coached, or a K-8 PE coach, and then I coached basketball and ran the book club and, like, ran the Cat 5 cables to fix the Internet in the attic, you know. And it was great. I worked, like, 100 hours a week. I made $12,000 a year. It was a lot of fun. I had a great time.

DAVID YEAGER: And at the end of it, I thought, now I'm going to go to law school. And when I was doing my applications, I was like, A friend of mine died of cancer. He got sarcoma. It was real quick. It was like six months. And we all went back to college and were there for a service. And I remember being in the airport. And I picked up.

DAVID YEAGER: Jeffrey Sachs, End of Poverty. Which is a popular book at the time. And just thinking like, here's a guy who like, I don't know, was doing something pretty mundane, macroeconomics, but he was spending all his time. Talking world leaders in other countries out of crushing death that was causing poverty.

DAVID YEAGER: And it's like taking whatever precocious skill he had and using it for others. And I thought law is not my Jeff Sachs skill. But what I do know how to do is motivate teenagers. Like that's how I spend all my time. And so I thought I just want to do I want to do this science of motivating young people like as much as possible So then I went to Stanford.

DAVID YEAGER: I'd never taken stats before, never taken psychology, but I just tried to become like a wild man, learning as much as I could. And thankfully, in my third year, Carol started working with me. And we kind of haven't looked back since.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Awesome story. So totally mission driven and.

DAVID YEAGER: And post hoc causal inference. So who knows if that's actually the story, but that those are, those sequence of events did occur though.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Post hoc causal inference. I guess you can map onto that famous Steve Jobs commencement speech at Stanford where he's basically saying you can't connect the dots going forward, only backwards. So it all makes sense looking back. Exactly. You know, this led to that, led to this, led to that, but going forward, we're, we're kind of stumbling in the dark a bit.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Well. I must say, I and everyone else are so grateful. That you made that choice or those choices. Clearly, the work you're doing is having a huge impact. I covered a few of your papers on the solo episode on growth mindset. And you mentioned nature and the fact that most people don't publish there at all, let alone once or twice or several times in their career.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: You've had an amazing run lately. And you just had this incredible arc of papers in this area of which can be distilled down to, I think, forgive me if this doesn't catch. At all, but figuring out how people can be the best version of themselves for their own lives and for the world, right? I mean, that's essentially what we're talking about here.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: And I love the way you incorporate the neuroscience and the motivation literature, and you're so good at attribution as something that we should all model ourselves around. It's really an incredible literature, and I'm excited to read the book, 10 to 25, genuinely excited. This notion of... Mentor mindset and how we can bring out the best in ourselves and others.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: It's a, it's phenomenal that you're doing this work. Please keep going. And I'm speaking on behalf of myself and everyone else. I say, you know, thanks for taking time out of your busy research schedule and teaching schedule to come here and teach millions of people about what you do and what they can do to be their best. So thank you so much.

DAVID YEAGER: Well, Well, we're just getting started and. It was great to be here. I did. I, I'm mom. I missed baseball practice tonight. So not for me, but for a nine-year-olds.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: An apology to your nine-year-olds plural. Yeah. Okay. Yeah. Oh, cause there's more. There are many of them on the team. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. This is back in Austin. Yeah. Okay. When's their next game?

DAVID YEAGER: A couple, three or four weeks. So we have plenty of time. We're still learning how to throw and hit. We'll get there.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Well, depending on when this episode comes out, you can let me know if they won or lost and, and, apologies.

DAVID YEAGER: That's the process.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: That's right. I, that game is important. And, but I can assure you that the, the information that you've, you've given us is, is, is sure to make a huge difference in people's lives. So thank you so much.

DAVID YEAGER: Thanks for having me.

ANDREW D. HUBERMAN: Thank you for joining me for today's discussion with Dr. David Yeager. To learn more about his research, to find links to his Social Media accounts, and to learn more about his upcoming book, 10 to 25, The Science of Motivating Young People, simply go to the links in our show note captions.

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