Distinguishing Multiple Dimensions of Conceptions of Ability: Implications for Self-Evaluation

Eva M. Pomerantz, Diane N. Ruble

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Three separate lines of research have suggested that conceptions of ability may play a key role in the development of self-evaluation. Each line has focused on a different dimension of conceptions of ability: conceptions of ability as uncontrollable, conceptions of ability as constant, and conceptions of ability as capacity. Unfortunately, there has been little attention to the convergences and divergences among the 3 dimensions. The present study examined this issue in 236 second- through fifth-grade children. Children indicated the extent to which they conceived of ability as uncontrollable, as constant, and as capacity. Two forms of self-evaluation (performance following failure and the extent to which self-perceptions of competence converge with external indicators of competence) were investigated. In addition, cognitive competence was assessed. The near-zero correlations, 3-factor solution yielded by confirmatory factor analysis, variability in age-related differences, differential links to cognitive competence, and diverse forms of self-evaluation among the 3 dimensions suggested that the 3 are relatively distinct, and that they may play different roles in the development of self-evaluation. Moreover, the 3 dimensions appear to interact with one another to influence self-evaluation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1165-1180
Number of pages16
JournalChild development
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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