The Evidence Portal

No program name: Incremental intervention

About the program

This program is a 6-session intervention that teaches high school students to better manage their feelings following incidents of victimization or exclusion, using the principles of incremental theory. The program aims to:

  1. Reduce retaliatory aggression and increase prosocial behaviour when students were exposed to a standardized incident of peer exclusion
  2. Reduce conduct problems in school as observed by teachers, primarily among those who reported being victimized by their peers; and
  3. Reduce depressive symptoms, primarily among those who reported being victimized by their peers.

Who does it work for?

This program is designed for students aged 14-16 years old. This program has only been evaluated in the USA. A randomized control trial (Yeager et al., 2013) was conducted with 230 participants. Participants were selected from a low-income public high school with substantial levels of conflict. Most participants were Latino (57%) and just over half (55%) were male. Over half of the sample received reduced cost or free lunches.

This program has not been evaluated in Australia or with Aboriginal Australians.

What outcomes does it contribute to?


  • Implicit theories of personality: Program participants held less of an entity theory of personality (meaning that program participants were more likely to believe that people can change)
  • Program participants had reduced baseline levels of aggression
  • Program participants’ prosocial behaviours increased
  • Teachers observed a reduction in program participants’ conduct problems
  • Program participants were late to school less often and had fewer absences.

How effective is it?

Overall, the program had positive effects on youth outcomes.

How strong is the evidence?

Promising research evidence:

  • At least one high-quality randomised controlled trial (RCT)/quasi-experimental design (QED) study reports statistically significant positive effects for at least one outcome, AND
  • Fewer RCT/QED studies of similar size and quality show no observed effects than show statistically significant positive effects, AND
  • No RCT/QED studies show statistically significant adverse effects.

How is it implemented?

The program includes 6 sessions delivered in classroom settings twice per week for 3 weeks and conducted by paid facilitators.

Key program messages for each session are as follows:

Session 1 & 2: Teaching neuroanatomy and how the brain changes with learning. Activities include team building; lectures and completing “brain challenge” worksheets.

Session 3 & 4: People’s personalities live partially in their brains, and brains can be changed. Activities include lectures and practice using the incremental theory in response to hypothetical rejections or interpersonal conflicts.

Session 5 & 6: People have many motivations for their actions besides their personalities (like thoughts and feelings), and some of these can also change. Activities include writing and perform skits using the incremental message in response to rejection or conflict; small-group discussions and final writing assignments.

How much does it cost?

No program costs were reported in the study.

Where does the evidence come from?

1 RCT conducted in the USA with 230 participants (Yeager et al., 2013).

Further resources

Yeager, DS, Trzesniewski, KH, & Dweck, CS 2013, ‘An implicit theories of personality intervention reduces adolescent aggression in response to victimization and exclusion’, Child Development, vol. 84, pp. 970-988, DOI 10.1111/cdev.12003.

Last updated:

09 Dec 2022

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