Social Representations of American History and Academic Engagement and Performance of African American Students



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Previous research has shown that social representations of one?s social groups can influence academic outcomes for racial and ethnic minority students in the United States. Other research has found that representations of American history have implications for identity and can impact the way people perceive and explain identity-relevant events. The current research uses a cultural psychological perspective to examine the consequences of exposure to social representations of American history on African American college students? performance. It is hypothesized that history facts with positive implications for identity will positively influence performance for African American students, and history facts with negative implications for identity will negatively impact performance.

The pilot study results did not support the hypotheses potentially due to the small African American sample size. The second study tested the same hypotheses with a larger sample of African American students by recruiting students from a historically Black university. Results did not support the main hypotheses. However, results revealed that high math and racial identity are positively related to performance. Other findings suggest that history conditions moderated the relationship between racial identity and saliency of stereotypes about African Americans. Racial ideologies correlated with academic measures differently across history conditions. This study has potential implications for African American students? academic identity and engagement in academic settings. In particular, academic settings that promote a positive sense of identity through history teachings can foster positive academic consequences for African American students.