Recursive Processes in Self-Affirmation: Intervening to Close the Minority Achievement Gap

Department of Psychology, University of Colorado, Muenzinger Psychology Building, Boulder, CO 80309-0345, USA.
Science (Impact Factor: 33.61). 05/2009; 324(5925):400-3. DOI: 10.1126/science.1170769
Source: PubMed


A 2-year follow-up of a randomized field experiment previously reported in Science is presented. A subtle intervention to lessen minority students' psychological threat related to being negatively stereotyped in school was tested in an experiment conducted three times with three independent cohorts (N = 133, 149, and 134). The intervention, a series of brief but structured writing assignments focusing students on a self-affirming value, reduced the racial achievement gap. Over 2 years, the grade point average (GPA) of African Americans was, on average, raised by 0.24 grade points. Low-achieving African Americans were particularly benefited. Their GPA improved, on average, 0.41 points, and their rate of remediation or grade repetition was less (5% versus 18%). Additionally, treated students' self-perceptions showed long-term benefits. Findings suggest that because initial psychological states and performance determine later outcomes by providing a baseline and initial trajectory for a recursive process, apparently small but early alterations in trajectory can have long-term effects. Implications for psychological theory and educational practice are discussed.

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    • "important values, attributes, and actions (G. L. Cohen et al., 2009; G. L. Cohen & Sherman, 2014; Nelson, Fuller, Choi, & Lyubomirsky , 2014). Affirmation narratives are used as a type of therapy or intervention and to get the individual to write positively about themselves in order to promote healing and coping, rather than writing about trauma, as in trauma-focused narratives. "
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    • "Self-affirmation has been shown to mitigate the negative consequences of stereotype threat (Cohen et al., 2006; Cohen et al., 2009; Frantz, Cuddy, Burnett, Ray, & Hart, 2004; Martens, Johns, Greenberg, & Schimel, 2006; Shapiro, Williams, & Hambarchyan, 2013; Taylor & Walton, 2011). Indeed, one study of minority students demonstrated that self-affirmation led to improved academic performance not only in the semester following self-affirmation, but up to two years later (Cohen et al., 2009). "
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    ABSTRACT: Self-affirming-such as by reflecting on one's strengths and values-reduces defensiveness to threatening information, reduces negative effects of stereotype threat, and promotes prosociality. These outcomes may promote physical health, highlighting a need to examine the role of self-affirmation in medical and health contexts. Data were collected as part of the nationally representative, cross-sectional, 2013 Health Information National Trends Survey. Items were completed by 2,731 respondents. Respondents answered questions about spontaneous self-affirmation tendencies, perceptions of providers and health care, involvement in medical appointments, health information seeking, and engagement in medical research. Spontaneous self-affirmation was associated with more positive perceptions of communication with one's provider, better perceived quality of care, greater likelihood of asking questions in a medical appointment, greater information seeking for oneself, and multiple indices of surrogate information seeking (i.e., seeking information for others). Four of eight significant associations remained significant when controlling for optimism. The associations of self-affirmation with aspects of the patient-provider relationship were not modified by factors likely to be associated with stereotype threat (e.g., race or BMI). Spontaneous self-affirmation was related to positive outcomes in health contexts. Experimental research is needed to further explore the causal nature of these associations.
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    • "Finally, students from poorer families obtain worse grades and lower standardized test scores, miss more school, drop out of high school more frequently, and are less likely to attend and/or graduate from post-secondary institutions, although the effects are also dependent on timing, depth and duration of poverty, as well as provision of learning experiences at home (Brooks-Gunn et al., 2005). The existence of ethnic-group-based inequality is often attributed to social factors such as negative stereotyping (Cohen et al., 2009; Miyake et al., 2010) and differences in peer and parental relations (Gore and Aseltine, 2003). However, the relationship between such factors and the gender gap remains unclear and, overall, the causes of both gaps are poorly understood (cf. "

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