What is it about?

What do you do if you have a lofty goal but lack the opportunities needed to pursue it? People who hold a “fixed theory of opportunity” can feel trapped by these circumstances and are more likely to give up. By contrast, people who hold a “growth theory of opportunity” believe one's opportunities can be changed. Consequently, they are more likely to actively cultivate new opportunities and achieve their goals.

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Why is it important?

This research shows that beliefs about the nature and workings of opportunities—whether or not they are changeable—can influence how people pursue challenging goals. Adopting a growth theory of opportunity can enable people to actively cultivate new opportunities when none seem available, leading to greater success in the long run.


Many people face diminished opportunities in our societies, often due to structural injustices like discrimination. At other times, opportunities could be available if they were actively cultivated. Our hope is that this research reaches people who could benefit from considering whether their beliefs about opportunities are holding them back from achieving what matters to them most.

Paul O'Keefe
Yale-NUS College

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Implicit theories of opportunity: When opportunity fails to knock, keep waiting, or start cultivating?, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, December 2022, American Psychological Association (APA),
DOI: 10.1037/pspa0000330.
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