Radiolab on the Obama Effect

I love the WNYC Radiolab Podcast. I wrote about their fascinating piece on sleep here. This weekend, I caught their shorter piece on the Obama Effect. It's about 18 minutes long and is worth listening to.

They start off reporting on a preliminary study that gave a test to a number of participants. Those conducting the study tested several groups of participants. The test, given three times, found that on average grades by African Americans improved as Obama's prominence rose.

When tested after Obama was nominated, African Americans scored higher than when tested prior to the nomination. Scores rose even higher for those taking the test after Obama became President.

In this podcast, they also talked about a study related to putting.

When scientits told participants the putting test was an intellectual test about problem solving, white particpants scored significantly higher than African American participants.

They then gave the same exact test -- with the exact same scoring criteria -- to a different group of participants. The only difference was that this time, they said it was a measure of athletic skill. In this case, African American participants scored significantly higher than white participants.

Radiolab also discuss similar studies relating to performance difference by gender.

The conclusions they come to are that lower performance is attributable not to talent, skill, or knowledge, but to self doubt. And it highlights the impact the perception of cultural stereotypes can have on people.

These are very sensitive and controversial matters, obviously. But it is a fascinating way of viewing test scores and other topics.

Listen to the Radiolab podcast here, or download it through your iTunes.

I try to live my life by the mantra, "Attitude is everything. And attitude is a decision." It's similar to the other common motivational slogan, "If you think you can, or think you can't, you're right."

Sayings like that may appear trite, but the do point to the importance of believing in yourself, regardless of what a test proctor, or other people may say. And that's a powerful tool.

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