Does mindset function the same way in different cultures?

We analyze the data from PISA (which includes 78 countries) and found that mindsets work differently depending on the societal norm of mindset. In general, growth mindsets positively predict performance and well-being in societies with a growth mindset norm. But in societies with a fixed-mindset norm, growth mindsets are linked to performance very weakly and well-being negatively. This suggests that students’ growth mindset works better when it pairs with a growth-oriented environment (not just in the classroom but also cultural environment).

How do mindsets influence the way peoople perceive ESL migrants' speech?

Migrants’ language competence is key to their successful integration into a new society. The general public and employers may rely on their mindsets to make sense of how migrants learn a new language. Those with strong fixed mindsets may be more concerned about whether migrants can feasibly become proficient enough to become contributing members of society. Such fixed mindsets may lead to the misconception that migrants lack the capacity to learn a new language, even though many studies indicate that, with the appropriate training, most newcomers are capable of developing their language skill at least to the level sufficient for daily communication. Although people with fixed mindsets judge the target migrants to have less potential, they are also less likely to blame migrants for their lack of language ability.

How does culture related to motivation pay off?

In this cross-cultural study published in the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, we found that achievement motivation (mastery goal and fear of failure) is more important in students’ performance and well-being in cultures with high versus low social mobility.


Journal articles & Book chapters


In press/2024

56. Lou, N. M. (in press). Course design for the psychology of migration: Intradisciplinary and experiential approach. Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology.  Preprint    Materials

55. Harley, J. M., Lou, N. M., Ahn. T., & Lau, C. H., Liu, Y. (2024). Improving Queer history knowledge and perspective-taking toward LGBTQ+ people: There’s an App for That. Teaching and Teacher Education, 143, 104545.

54. Elahi Shirvan, M., Saeedy Robat, E., Alamer, A., Lou, N. M., & Barabadi, E. (2024).A multilevel meta-analysis of language mindsets and language learning outcomes in second language acquisition research.Educational Psychology Review, 36(1), 1-30.


53. Lou, N. M., & Li, L.M.W. (2023). Social mobility and motivational payoff: Achievement motivation is more important in students’ performance and well-being in cultures with high vs. low social mobility. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology. Preprint

52. Lou, N. M., & Noels, K. A. (2023). “Your English is good for an immigrant”: Examining mixed effects of mindset messages on perceived linguistic potential of and blame attributions towards ESL migrants. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 42(3), 300–323.

51. Grossmann, I., Rotella, A., Hutcherson, C., Sharpinskyi, K., Varnum, M. ……Lou, N. M.,…..Wilkenining,T. (2023). Insights into accuracy of social scientists’ forecasts of societal change. Nature Human Behaviour, 7, 484–501.

50. Lou, N. M., & Li, L.M.W. (2023). The mindset × societal norm effect across 78 cultures: Growth mindsets are linked to performance weakly and well-being negatively in societies with fixed-mindset norms. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 93(1), 134–152.    Preprint

49. Schaerer, M., du Plessis, C., Nguyen, M. H. B., van Aert, R. C., Tiokhin, L., Lakens, D., … & Gender Audits Forecasting Collaboration. (2023). On the trajectory of discrimination: A meta-analysis and forecasting survey capturing 44 years of field experiments on gender and hiring decisionsOrganizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes179, 104280.

48. Sadoughi, M., Hejazi, S. Y. & Lou, N. M. (2023). How do growth mindsets contribute to academic engagement in L2 classes? The mediating and moderating roles of the L2 motivational self system. Social Psychology of Education, 26, 241–261.

47. Lou, N. M, Noels, K. A., Kurl, S., Zhang, Y. S., & Leslie, H. (2023). COVID discrimination experience: Chinese Canadians’ social identities moderate the effect of personal and group discrimination on well-being. Cultural Diversity & Ethnic Minority Psychology, 29(2), 132–144.

46. Cutumisu, M., & Lou, N. M. (2023). The roles of generic and domain-specific mindsets in learning graphic design. Interactive Learning Environments, 31(3), 1781–1795.

45. Haldane, C., Lou, N. M., Harley, J. M. (2023). Social-historical accounts of identity processes and resilience: Experiences of older and prominent members of the LGBTQ+ community. Journal of Homosexuality.70(3), 387–426.

44. Zarrinabadi, N., Lou, N. M., & Darvishnezhad, Z. (2023). To praise or not to praise? Examining the effects of ability vs. effort praise on anxiety and willingness to communicate. Innovation in Language Learning and Teaching, 17(1), 88–101.


43. Lou, N. M., Noels, K. A. Kurl, S., Zhang, Y. S., & Leslie, H. (2022). Chinese Canadians’ experiences of the dual pandemics of COVID-19 and racism: Relations with identity, negative emotion, and anti-racism incident reporting. Canadian Psychology / Psychologie canadienne, 63(3), 279–297.   Preprint          Materials                 Media: UVic News    Global News    CTV News     Victoria News     Radio-Canada     CHEK News    Abbotsford News   CBC Radio1 (Jan. 10)    National Post      Vancouver Sun  Toronto Star    The Province

42. Zarrinabadi, N., Lou, N. M., & Ahmadi, A. (2022). Resilience in language classrooms: Exploring individual antecedents and consequences. System, 102892.  

41.Lou, N. M.,& Zarrinabadi, N. (2022). Language mindsets. In Li, S., Hiver, P., & Papi, M. (Eds). The Routledge Handbook of SLA and Individual Differences. Routledge.

40. Daniels, L. M., Goegan L. D., Tulloch, S., & Lou, N. M., & Noels, K. (2022). School-led mindset messaging: Understanding elementary students’ meaning and emotions. Educational Psychology in Practice, 38(3), 279-296.

39. Harley, J. M., Montreuil, T. C., Lou, N. M., Feldman, L., Fried, G., Lavoie-Tremblay, M., Bhanji, F., Kennedy, H. (2022). Rethinking how healthcare professionals cope with stress: A process model for COVID-19 and beyond. Health Care Management Review, 47(4), 350-359.

38. Lou, N. M, Chaffee, K. E., & Noels, K. A. (2022). Growth, fixed and mixed mindsets: Mindset system profiles in foreign language learners and their role in engagement and achievement. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 44(3), 607-632.     Preprint        Materials

37. Zarrinabadi, N., & Lou, N. M. (2022). Editorial: Mindsets in language education: Research innovation and implications for language learning and teaching. Innovation in Language Learning and Teaching, 16(3), 205-207.

36. Zarrinabadi, N., Karimi, M., Rezazadeh, M., & Lou, N. M. (2022). Why do growth mindsets make you feel better about learning and your selves? The mediating role of adaptability. Innovation in Language Learning and Teaching,16(3), 249-264.

35. Lou, N. M., Noels, K. A. Zhang, Y. S. D. & Kurl, S. (2022). Ethnic minority, immigrants, and Indigenous peoples’ well-being disparities in Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic: The mediating role of threat perceptions. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 88, 148-156.

34. Li, W-Q, Li, L. M.W., & Lou, N. M. (2022). Who moved with you? The companionship of significant others reduces movers’ motivation to make new friends. Asian Journal of Social Psychology, 25(2), 319-335.

33. Lou, N. M., Montreuil, T. C., Feldman, L., Fried, G., Lavoie-Tremblay, M., Bhanji, F., Kennedy, H., Kaneva, P., & Harley, J.M. (2022). Nurses and physicians’ distress, burnout, and coping strategies during COVID-19: Stress and impact on perceived performance and intentions to quit. Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions, 42(1), e44-e52.   Media: Global News Montreal Gazette CTV News   The Conversation    Medical Press

32. Firat, M., Noels, K. A., & Lou, N. M. (2022).Self-determined motivation in language learning beyond the classroom: Interpersonal, intergroup and intercultural processes. In J. Maynard and Shelton-Strong S. (Eds). Autonomy support beyond the language learning classroom: A self-determination theory perspective. Multilingual Matters.   Preprint

31. Zhang, D., Noels, K., Leslie, H. Y., & Lou, N. M. (2022). “Responsible” or “strange”? Differences in face mask use between Chinese and non-East Asian Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic. Frontiers in Psychology, 13, 853830.


30. Lou, N. M. (2021). Acculturation in a postcolonial context: Language, identity, cultural adaptation, and academic achievement of Macao students in Mainland China. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 85, 213–225.   Preprint

29. Harley, J. M., Lou, N. M., Liu, Y., Cutumisu, M., Daniels, L. M., Leighton, J. P., & Nadon, L. (2021). University students’ negative emotions in a computer-based examination: The roles of trait test-emotion, prior test-taking methods, and gender. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 46(6), 956–972.

28. Lou, N. M., Montreuil, T. C., Feldman, L., Fried, G., Lavoie-Tremblay, M., Bhanji, F., Kennedy, H., Kaneva, P., Drouin, S., & Harley, J. M. (in press). Evaluations of healthcare providers’ perceived support from personal, hospital, and system resources: Implications for wellbeing and management in healthcare in Montreal, Quebec during COVID-19. Evaluation & the Health Professions, 44(3),319–322.   Media: The Globe and Mail  Global News   McGill Alumni  The Gritty Nurse Podcast

27. Shirvan, M. E., Lou, N. M., & Taherian, T. (in press). Where do language mindsets come from? An ecological perspective on EFL students’ mindsets about L2 writing. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 50, 1065–1086.

26. Shirvan, M. E., Lou, N. M., Shahnama, M., & Yazdanmehr, E. (2021). Maintaining effort and interest despite challenges during the COVID-19 Pandemic: A process tracing approach to a teacher’s grit during an online L2 course. Journal for the Psychology of Language Learning, 3(2), 45-60.

25. Zhang, X., Lou, N. M., Noels, K., Daniels, L. (2021). Attributions and mindsets. In T. Gregersen & S. Mercer (Eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Psychology of Language Learning.

24. Zhang, D., Leslie, H. Y., Sharafaddin-Zadeh, Y., Noels, K., & Lou, N. M. (2021). Public messages about face masks during COVID-19: Perceptions of and impacts on Canadians. Journal of Community Health, 46(5), 903-912.     Data & Materials  Media: CBC Radio Global News   Folio AlbertaPrimeTimes

23. Liu, Y. S., Hankey, J. Lou, N, M., Chokka, P., & Harley, J. M. (2021). Usability and emotions of mental health assessment tools: Comparing mobile app and paper-and-pencil modalities. Journal of Technology in Human Services, 39 (2), 193-211.

22. Zarrinabadi, N., Lou, N. M., & Shirzad, M. (2021). Autonomy support predicts language mindsets: Implications for developing communicative competence and willingness to communicate in EFL classroom. Learning and Individual Differences, 101981.

21. Lou, N. M., & Noels, K. A. (2021). Western and Heritage Cultural Internalizations Predict EFL Students’ Language Motivation and Confidence. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 25(5), 636-650.   Materials


20. Lou, N. M, & Noels, K. A. (2020). Breaking the vicious cycle of language anxiety: Growth language-mindsets improve lower-competence ESL students’ intercultural interactions. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 61, 101847.     Pre-registration   Supplementary Materials  Post-print

19. Lou, N. M., & Noels, K. A. (2020). Mindsets matter for linguistic minority students: Growth mindsets foster greater perceived proficiency, especially for newcomersModern Language Journal, 104(4), 739-756.     Materials Post-print

18. Lou, N. M., & Noels, K. A. (2020). “Does my teacher believe I can improve?”: Meta-lay theories mediate the effect of teachers’ feedback on ESL students’ mindsets and need satisfaction. Frontiers in Psychology, 11, 1417.      Materials

17. Chaffee, K. E., Lou, N. M, & Noels, K. A. (2020). Does stereotype threat affect men in language domains? Frontiers in Psychology, 11,1302.   Pre-print

16. Lou, N. M., & Noels, K. A. (2020). Mindsets about language learning and support for immigrants’ integration. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 79, 45–57.  Materials   Post-print

15. Cutumisu, M., & Schwartz, D. L., Lou, N. M. (2020). The relation between academic achievement and the spontaneous use of design-thinking strategies. Computers & Education, 149,103806.  Data (Online supplement)  Preprint

14. Chaffee, K. E., Lou, N. M, Noels, K. A., & Katz, J. (2019). Why don’t “real” men learn foreign languages? Masculinity threat and gender ideology suppress men’s language motivation. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 23(2), 301–318.   Preprint     Media: Youtube Conversation Pacific Standard

13. Cutumisu, M., & Lou, N. M. (2020). The moderating effect of mindset on the relation between university students’ critical feedback-seeking and learning. Computers in Human Behavior, 112, 106445   Data (online supplement)   Pre-print


12.Lou, N. M,& Noels, K. A. (2019). Language mindset, meaning-making, and motivation. In by Lamb, M., Csizér, K., Henry A., & Ryan, S. (Eds.), Palgrave Macmillan Handbook of Motivation for Language. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

11. Noels, K. A., Lou, N. M., Lascano, D. I. V., Chaffee, K. E., Dincer, A., Zhang, Y. S. D., & Zhang, X. (2019). Self-determination and motivated engagement in language learning. In by Lamb, M., Csizér, K., Henry A., & Ryan, S. (Eds.), Palgrave Macmillan Handbook of Motivation for Language. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

10. Lou, N. M., & Noels, K. A. (2019). Sensitivity to language-based rejection in intercultural communication: The role of language mindsets and implications for migrants’ cross-cultural adaptationApplied Linguistics,40 (3), 478–505. doi: 10.1093/applin/amx047  Media: OUPbolg Ualberta News

9. Lou, N. M, & Noels, K. A. (2019). Promoting growth in foreign and second language education: A research agenda for mindsets in language learning and teachingSystem, 86, 102-126. doi:      Preprint

8. Lee, H., Lou, N. M., Johnson, M. D., & Park, S. W. (2019). A Socio-ecological approach to understanding mental and physical health: The mediating role of relationship beliefs and goals. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.36(10),3117-3138.


7. Lou, N. M., Chaffee, K. E., Vargas-Lascano, D. I., Dincer, A., & Noels, K. A. (2018). Complementary perspectives on autonomy in Self-determination Theory and language learner autonomyTESOL Quarterly, 52(1), 210–220.


6.Lou, N. M., & Noels, K. (2017). Measuring language mindsets and modeling their relations with goal orientations and emotional and behavioural responses in failure situations. Modern Language Journal, 101(1), 22–33        Materials

5. Lou, N. M., & Li, L. M. (2017). Interpersonal relationship mindsets and rejection sensitivity across cultures: The role of relational mobilityPersonality and Individual Differences, 108, 200–206. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2016.12.004

4.Lou, N. M.,Masuda, T., & Li, L.M.W. (2017). Decremental mindsets and achievement motivation: An extended framework of implicit theories of intelligence. Learning and Individual Differences, 59, 96–106.


3. Lou, N. M., & Noels, K. A. (2016). Changing language mindsets: Implications for goal orientations and responses to failure in and outside the second language classroom. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 46, 22–33.     Materials

2. Noels, K. A., Chaffee, K. E., Lou, N. M, & Dincer, A. (2016). Self-determination, engagement, and identity in learning German: Some directions in the psychology of language learning motivation. Foreign Languages ​​Teaching and Learning (Fremdsprachen Lehren und Lernen), 45(2), 12–29.

1. Noels, K. A., & Lou, N. M. (2015). Mindsets, goal orientations and language learning: What we know and where we need to go. Contact, 41(2), 41−52.