Jim Stigler, the UCLA psychologist, was fascinated by the fact that Asian students routinely did better academically at elementary math, so he set up an experiment. He gave the same math problem that had no solution to small groups of American kids and small groups of Japanese kids. The American kids tackled the problem, and gave up after trying only briefly. The Japanese students, however, continued to try to find a solution to the problem. Stigler believes that the Asian believe that 'hard work is the key to success' is often the reason why American students are continually outperformed in school by Asian students. Most Americans believe we are 'born smart', that the ability to be intelligent is innate.

Another series of studies were performed by the Columbia University psychologist, Carol Dweck. In one of the studies, Dweck and a UCLA researcher named Valance Henderson asked 229 seventh grade students whether people are 'born smart' or 'get smart by working hard'. The students who believed they had to work for their intelligence level had their scores stay high or improve, while the ones that believed people were born smart had their test scores stay low or drop even lower. The Japanese believe everyone can learn, with enough time. The hard thing is to get American kids to believe that you aren't 'born smart', that you get your intelligence from working hard.

In conclusion, to be successful academically, it is wise to believe in working to get smart instead of blaming it on an excuse that 'you weren't born smart'.