ERIC Number: EJ886206
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2010-Mar
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
A versus F: The Effects of Implicit Letter Priming on Cognitive Performance
Ciani, Keith D.; Sheldon, Kennon M.
British Journal of Educational Psychology, v80 n1 p99-119 Mar 2010
Background: It has been proposed that motivational responses outside people's conscious awareness can be primed to affect academic performance. The current research focused on the relationship between primed evaluative letters (A and F), explicit and implicit achievement motivation, and cognitive performance. Aim: Given the evaluative connotation associated with letter grades, we wanted to know if exposure to the letter A before a task could improve performance, and exposure to the letter F could impair performance. If such effects are found, we suspected that they may be rooted in implicit approach versus avoidance motivation, and occur without participants' awareness. Sample: The current research was conducted at a large research university in the USA. Twenty-three undergraduates participated in Expt 1, 32 graduate students in Expt 2, and 76 undergraduates in Expt 3. Method: Expts 1 and 2 were conducted in classroom settings, and Expt 3 in a laboratory. In Expt 1, participants were randomly assigned to either the A or F condition. The letter manipulation came in the form of an ostensible Test Bank ID code on the cover of an analogy test, which participants were prompted to view and write on each page of their test. Expt 2 followed a similar procedure but included the neutral letter J as a third condition to serve as a control. In Expt 3, participants' letter condition was presented in the form of an ostensible Subject ID code prior to an anagram test. Results: Expts 1-3 demonstrated that exposure to the letter A enhances performance relative to the exposure to the letter F, whereas exposure to the letter F prior to an achievement task can impair performance. This effect was demonstrated using two different types of samples (undergraduate and graduate students), in two different experimental settings (classroom and laboratory), using two different types of achievement tasks (analogy and anagram), and using two different types of letter presentation (Test Bank ID and Subject ID). Results from the funnelled debriefing, self-report goals, and word-stem completion support our position that the effect of letter on academic performance takes place outside the conscious awareness of participants. Conclusions: Our findings suggest that students are vulnerable to evaluative letters presented "before" a task, and support years of research highlighting the significant role that nonconscious processes play in achievement settings.
Descriptors: Graduate Students, Research Universities, Academic Achievement, Achievement Need, Motivation, Tests, Laboratories, Undergraduate Students, Priming, Cognitive Processes, Task Analysis, Experiments
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Higher Education
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: United States