60-Second Science

Affirmations Improve Minority Student Grades

A study in the journal Science finds that an affirmation exercise improved the grades of African-American middle school students, and the effects lasted for at least another two years after the test period. Cynthia Graber reports

[The following is an exact transcript of this podcast.]

It sounds too good to be true–help kids feel good about themselves, and they’ll l do better in school. But it apparently worked for African-American middle school students who engaged in a simple self-affirmation writing exercise. And the benefits extended well after the regimen ended. The results of the study appeared in the April 17th issue of the journal Science.

More than 400 black and white students took part in the research. Half of the students wrote about any neutral topic over the course of a year. The other half were asked to write about why they cherished certain values. The grades of African-American affirmation kids improved about a quarter of a point on a four-point scale, compared with the control group. And the lowest initial African-American performers upped their scores more than four-tenths of a point. Two years later, the scores continued to track higher among the group that practiced affirmations. White students who engaged in the affirmation exercise showed no improvement. A study author said that ethnic minorities feel particularly anxious that doing poorly could confirm other people’s negative expectations about them. And the affirmations may help alleviate those fears.

—Cynthia Graber

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