Political Neuroscience: “Growth Mindsets” and Disability

On Twitter, I learned that the British government is citing neuroscience studies as part of a new welfare initiative. The “Health and Work Conversation” (HWC) is a newly-introduced procedure for welfare claimants receiving support because sickness or disability impairs their ability to work. The one hour “conversation” is mandatory in most cases and it seems intended to encourage people to seek whatever work they are able to do. A Freedom of Information Act request has revealed documents relating to the HWC, including a set of training Powerpoint slides aimed at the “work coaches” whose job it is to administer the HWC. The training material refers heavily to “growth mindsets”. This psychological model, which Neuroskeptic readers may be familar with, originated from research on schoolchildren. According to mindset theorists, children who believe that success is a product of effort have a “growth mindset”, and these children try harder and perform better than those who believe talent determines success (“fixed mindset”). Whether it’s appropriate to apply this educational model to a disability context I’ll leave to the psychologists. Two of the HWC slides explicitly refer to neuroscience, though, and these I will comment on. Here’s the first one: This slide is talking about…

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