People's implicit theories about whether personality traits are fixed or malleable

One of the most effective ways to change behavior may not be targeting the behavior directly, but instead changing people's implicit underlying assumptions about whether behaviors or personalities in general are fixed or malleable.

It may seem obvious – or at least most would agree once it's pointed out to them – that people will be more likely to change a behavior if they believe it can be changed. But many interventions to change behavior don't make this a central feature. It could be argued that it is more important to retain the typical focus on making people more motivated or providing instruction on how to change a specific habit and behavior. Beliefs about whether a behavior change can be achieved can then follow suit.

The key value of the work on implicit theories is explicating what form this knowledge takes, how it can be changed, and what the impact is. For example, for a brief overview see:

Some studies have revealed extremely impressive findings: teaching middle school students and undergraduates that intelligence is malleable (rather than fixed) can improve their actual grades. Very few interventions impact such an important and broad measure, despite using far more time and resources. They are also often restricted to just one content area or set of skills. Little work has examined how changing mindsets can result in greater behavior change, but there is a great deal of potential.