Widespread “Obama Effect” on African-American Standardized Test Performance Illusory, New Study Suggests


Despite anecdotal reports in the media of an “Obama effect” on African-American student achievement, black students primed to think about Barack Obama prior to taking a standardized test performed no better than white students or black students in a control group. The research was conducted by Joshua Aronson, professor of applied psychology at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, two of his students, Sheana Jannone and Tanisha Johnson-Campbell, and Matthew McGlone, associate professor in the Department of Communications Studies at the University of Texas. Supported by the National Science Foundation and the Spencer Foundation, the findings will appear in the July issue of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

Recent media reports have speculated that Barack Obama’s stereotype-defying success is having a positive impact on African-American students’ academic performance. A quasi-experiment performed last year by researchers at Vanderbilt University found that Obama had a profound effect on the exam performance of a sample of black test-takers, effectively eliminating the black-white test score gap in the days following Obama’s victory in November. Researchers theorized that Obama serves as a salient role-model for students, helping to close the gap between white and black students’ achievement 500

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