Before a test, have students “prime their brain” for success. Studies confirm that you if think of a certain trait, that trait will affect your behavior. In one study, the researchers had students think of a soccer hooligan and list their behaviors, lifestyle and appearance attributes. Another group did the same procedure with the stereotypes of a professor. They then took a general knowledge test. The group that thought of soccer hooligans scored on avg. 46% and the group that thought of the professor scored on avg. 65%.
This priming effect has been confirmed in many studies. Scientists believe it is due to the fact that activation of these traits in the brain will evoke corresponding behavior in the person thinking about them. The priming phenomena happens in all walks of life. People reading about the elderly will unconsciously walk slower. People who are asked to walk slower will more easily recognize words related to old age. People asked to smile find jokes funnier and people asked to frown find disturbing pictures more disturbing.
So, if you want to prime the students for success, in science class have them think and describe traits of scientist. In history class, have them think and describe traits of a historian. However, it won’t work if they think of specific people (like Leonardo da Vinci). This is probably because thinking of someone who is so prolific is overwhelming and difficult to live up to their success.
Wiseman, R. (2011). Creativity. In 59 seconds: Change your life in under a minute (p. 126). New York: Anchor Books.
Kahneman,D. (2011). The Associative Machine. In Thinking, fast and slow. New York:Farra, Straus, and Giroux