I've been working with a local elementary school this fall (and loving it!). In my last session with them, I did a one-hour workshop based on Carol Dweck's work on self-theories of intelligence. Dr. Dweck's work has focused on how individuals (pre-school to adults) theorize about intelligence, morality, love, and the world in general. For each topic, she and her colleagues have found that indiviudals can have entity/fixed or incremental/growth theories. For intelligence, this means thinking that smart is something you are (entity/fixed) or something you become throuh effort (incremental/growth). This concept is very close to Seligman's attributional style theory (and, in fact, Dr. Dweck's initial work used that as a launching point).
Here are index card versions of the correlates of these theories. For full information, try Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (2006) or Self-Theories: Their Role in Motivation, Personality, and Development (2000). Mindset is obviously newer and it's written more for a lay audience, but I found Self-Theories very clear and it lays out the research base more fully.
Smart people just ARE!
No need to work at it.
Effort is a sign of not-smart.
And pointless -- effort can never compensate for not-smartness.
Difficulties in school or with learning signal my not-smart point.
I must avoid becoming a not-smart, at all costs.
I must avoid difficulties
Tasks that are easy are good.
Tasks that are easy for me and hard for others are better.
Even one action can show the core traits of a person.
Once you know a person's core, no reason to expect change.
And no reason to look for contrary evidence. (Stereotypes)
Smart is the combination of knowledge, strategy, and effort.
Learning is good because it makes me smarter.
I can always work harder.
I can always find better strategies, or someone can help me!
Difficulties in school or with learning signal insufficient effort or
Improper strategies, or inadequate knowledge – all fixable!
I must seek out challenges in order to get smarter.
What others accomplish does not diminish my increasing smarts!
People have tendencies, but situations often shape their actions.
It takes a lot of observations to start to know someone.
Even then, they can change.