Register for an account

X

Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.

X

Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.

Mind

Stuart Smalley had the Right Idea: Self-Affirmations Boost Grades for Some

80beatsBy Eliza StricklandApril 17, 2009 6:00 PM
student.jpg

Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

The Saturday Night Live character who famously recited the mantra: "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me" may have been setting a valuable example for schoolkids. A new study asked middle school students to do short, self-affirming writing exercises, and found that the simple task boosted the grades of some students for two years afterward.

The students who benefited most were blacks who were doing poorly, the study found; the exercises made no difference for white students, or for black ones who were already doing well [The New York Times].

The result is exciting, lead researcher Geoffrey Cohen says, because it

suggests that even modest interventions, when done early, can interrupt a downward achievement spiral. "Small changes to an individual's psychological state can have surprisingly large effect over time if they alter the angle of people's performance trajectory," he said, adding that the early benefit is compounded over time [Reuters].

For the study, published in Science, the researchers gave writing assignments to 7th grade students at a public school in Connecticut. Some students were given

a list of values, such as relationships with friends and family, creativity, interest in music or sports. They were asked to pick the value that was most important to them and write a paragraph about it. "The exercise gives kids a chance to say, 'This is what I believe in.' It takes the sting out of potential failures," Cohen said [Reuters].

Other students were given a writing assignment that didn't focus on their values or self-image. By the end of 8th grade, almost two years after the writing exercises, struggling black students who had written about their values had grade point averages that were .4 points higher than comparable students who had written on an unrelated topic.

The authors found, too, that those who benefited from the exercises felt more adequate as students on average than those struggling peers who did the control assignment. One reason black students benefited more than whites may be that they have more anxiety over academic performance because of racial stereotypes, the authors suggest [The New York Times].

Related Content: 80beats: Girls and Boys Are Equally Good at Math, Study FindsImage: iStockphoto

2 Free Articles Left

Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.

Subscribe

Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

Want unlimited access?

Subscribe today and save 70%

Subscribe

Already a subscriber? Register or Log In