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Jim Huggins
February 7th, 2009
09:52 pm
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The Obama Effect. (No, it's not what you think.)
The Obama Effect (a podcast from RadioLab)

Brief summary ... there's a recent study (currently undergoing peer review) which spurs an interesting discussion.  Researchers administered a small portion of the GRE verbal exam to a number of people.  As has been well-documented elsewhere, African-Americans perform worse on such exams.  But then they gave the same exam shortly after Obama accepted the Democratic Party's nomination for President ... and the performance gap disappeared.

The segment then goes on to look at some work that Claude Steele has done, both looking at race and gender, with very similar findings.  (I won't spoil the story ... listen to the podcast for yourself.)

If this is indeed verifiable (and there is some substantial science to be done here), this is utterly fascinating.  The importance of words and images, even when one is aware of their bias, appears to be substantial.

Current Mood: surprisedfascinated

(2 comments | Leave a comment)

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Date:February 8th, 2009 03:37 pm (UTC)
In the black community, especially the urban black community, there's been this trend of rebelliousness against "acting white". Black kids who are thought to be acting white are bullied/abused mercilessly. One of the traits of acting white?


So if you want to "stay a brother", you'd have to at least act dumb if not resist all learning possible. Obama's assent to the White House, and the consequential good vibe from the rest of the world for it, has likely done a lot to toss that stupid idea to the side, moreso than probably any other plan could.

It's a good thing.
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Date:February 9th, 2009 03:41 pm (UTC)
Actually, the effect is even more perplexing than that. Steele has found that the effect (which is called the stereotype threat) happens even if you consciously reject the hypothesis. Even if you know that the whole "acting white" thing is preposterous, you're still affected by it.

And this effect can happen in incredibly subtle ways. Steele talks about it in the podcast. Give a group people an IQ test, and African-Americans will do worse than Anglo-Americans. Give the same group of people the same test, but instead call it a "problem-solving assessment", and the performance gap completely disappears.
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