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'A+' Attitude, 'A+' Results?

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What do the letters "A" and "F" mean to you? If you're like most people, you associate "A" with success and "F" with failure. Psychologists Keith Ciani and Ken Sheldon from the University of Missouri wondered if subtly exposing students to the letters "A" or "F" before a test affected their performance.

In one experiment, students completed identical exams, but some were labeled "Test Bank ID: A" and some were labeled "Test Bank ID: F." Students were asked to write the test bank ID letter on the top of their answer sheet. The A group performed significantly better than the F group. A second experiment was identical, except a third group was added, which was primed with the letter "J" - a letter which should not have any effect on performance. Again, the A group outperformed the F group. The J group did better than the F group, but not quite as well as the A group.

According to Dr. Keith Ciani: "These findings suggest that exposure to letters A and F, even without any explicit reference to success or failure, significantly affected the students' performance on the tests." He was careful to note, however, that more research is necessary to demonstrate that these effects would carry over to the classroom.

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This new study was published in the British Journal of Educational Psychology.