Friday, January 06, 2006

Understanding Our Psych Outs - Race, Gender, and Smarts

"For some reason, I didn't score well on tests. Maybe I was just nervous. There's a lot of pressure on you, knowing that if you fail, you fail your race."
- Rodney Ellis, African American State Senator

Everyone seems vulnerable to particular types of "psych out" conditions, but knowing about these factors can immunize against their effects.

In these studies, researchers were able to find psych out factors for African American (Verbal GRE), female (math), and Caucasian male (vertical jump) college students, but this "choking" could be prevented by warning them about the psych out process.

In the Biology of Choking post below, you can see how students with the strongest memory were the most likely to choke on memory tests when they thought that faculty members would be watching them.

In the Wise Criticism link below, stereotype threat is discussed in the context of the need to provide instruction - and positive as well as negative feedback. If students are emotionally sensitive about their performance, how do you teach them without making things worse?

One answer is to combine criticism, with assurance of ability and discussion of a "higher standard." This seemed to be the best way to balance issues of sensitivity, instructional feedback, and task motivation. This seem like particularly good advice.

Example of this form of criticism: "The comments I provide in the following pages are quite critical, but I hope helpful. Remember, I wouldn't go to the trouble of giving you this feedback if I didn't think, based on what I've read in your letter, that you are capable of meeting the higher standard I mentioned."

Stereotype threat
The Biology of 'Choking' Under Stress
Wise Criticism

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