Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Exposure to letters A or F can affect test performance

Date:
March 9, 2010
Source:
British Psychological Society (BPS)
Summary:
Seeing the letter A before an exam can improve a student's exam result while exposure to the letter F may make a student more likely to fail, according to a new study.

A new study finds that seeing the letter A before an exam can improve a student's exam result while exposure to the letter F may make a student more likely to fail.
Credit: iStockphoto/Stacey Newman

Seeing the letter A before an exam can improve a student's exam result while exposure to the letter F may make a student more likely to fail.

Related Articles


The finding is published in the British Journal of Educational Psychology in March 2010.

The study, carried out by Dr Keith Ciani and Dr Ken Sheldon at the University of Missouri, USA, investigated whether exposing students to the letters A or F before a test affected how they performed. Dr Ciani said: "The letters A and F have significant meaning for students, A represents success and F, failure. We hypothesised that if students are exposed to these letters prior to an academic test it could affect their performance through non-conscious motivation."

A total of 131 students took part in three separate experiments. In the first, 23 undergraduates were asked to complete a number of analogies in a classroom setting. All of the tests were the same, however half of the tests were labelled 'Test Bank ID: A', and the other half 'Test Bank ID: F'. Before starting the test the participants were asked to write their Test Bank ID letter in the top right hand corner of each sheet.

Each participant's analogy tests were scored and compared between the groups. A significant difference between the two groups was found, with the A group performing significantly better than the F group; A scoring on average 11.08 correct out of 12, and F only 9.42 correct on average.

In the second study, the experiment was repeated with 32 students, but as well as Test Bank ID: A' and 'Test Bank ID: F' groups, some of the students were given 'Test Bank ID: J' -- a letter without performance meaning. Again, participants in the A group performed significantly better on the analogy test than participants on the F group, while participants given the letter J performed better than F, but worse than A.

Dr Keith Ciani said: "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.

"We believe that the meanings inherent in the evaluative letters were enough to influence their performance through the motivational state that they produced. Exposure to the letter A made the students non-consciously approach the task with the aim to succeed, while exposure to letter F made the students non-consciously want to avoid failure. Research suggests that when people approach tasks with the desire to succeed they perform better than when striving to avoid failure.

"During the debriefing process, participants could recall their letter but were unaware of its role in the study. These findings support our hypothesis that the effect occurred outside of participants' conscious awareness."

The findings were also replicated in a third experiment in which 76 undergraduate students were asked to complete an anagram test in a laboratory setting, after being exposed to either A, F or J 'presented as Subject ID'. Participants in the condition A scored on average 6.02 correct out of 7, but F scored only 3.65 on average.

"We believe the primary implication from this research is that students are vulnerable to evaluative letters presented before a task. Teachers should be careful not to use identification systems that map onto assessment systems. For example, in a course with letter grading, teachers should avoid identifying different test forms using letters from the grading scale. Doing so may inadvertently prime students to do better or worse than their ability and preparation would predict. Conversely, this effect may be desired by savvy teachers. Adorning classrooms with symbols of achievement, such as A+ and other success-oriented words and phrases may activate effort, pride, and the intention to perform well in standardized testing situation. It is important to note that the external validity of our research remains to be demonstrated."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by British Psychological Society (BPS). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Ciani, Keith D.; Sheldon, Kennon M. A versus F: The effects of implicit letter priming on cognitive performance. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 2010; 80 (1): 99 DOI: 10.1348/000709909X466479

Cite This Page:

British Psychological Society (BPS). "Exposure to letters A or F can affect test performance." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 March 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100308203306.htm>.
British Psychological Society (BPS). (2010, March 9). Exposure to letters A or F can affect test performance. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 26, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100308203306.htm
British Psychological Society (BPS). "Exposure to letters A or F can affect test performance." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100308203306.htm (accessed November 26, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Science & Society News

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Who Will Failed Nuclear Talks Hurt Most?

Who Will Failed Nuclear Talks Hurt Most?

Reuters - Business Video Online (Nov. 25, 2014) With no immediate prospect of sanctions relief for Iran, and no solid progress in negotiations with the West over the country's nuclear programme, Ciara Lee asks why talks have still not produced results and what a resolution would mean for both parties. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
FCC Forces T-Mobile To Alert Customers Of Data Throttling

FCC Forces T-Mobile To Alert Customers Of Data Throttling

Newsy (Nov. 25, 2014) T-Mobile and the FCC have reached an agreement requiring the company to alert customers when it throttles their data speeds. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
From Popcorn To Vending Snacks: FDA Ups Calorie Count Rules

From Popcorn To Vending Snacks: FDA Ups Calorie Count Rules

Newsy (Nov. 25, 2014) The US FDA is announcing new calorie rules on Tuesday that will require everywhere from theaters to vending machines to include calorie counts. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Symantec Uncovers Sophisticated Spying Malware Regin

Symantec Uncovers Sophisticated Spying Malware Regin

Newsy (Nov. 24, 2014) A Symantec white paper reveals details about Regin, a spying malware of unusual complexity which is believed to be state-sponsored. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Science & Society

Business & Industry

Education & Learning

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins