The “Obama Effect” is a theory that combats the effects of negative stereotyping, which is when a group confirms a negative social stereotype for their social group. For example, a negative stereotype is Black-Americans perform worse on tests than White-Americans, and when Black-Americans are made aware of the stereotype before testing, they perform worse than White-Americans. The “Obama Effect” is an effect which combats the negative stereotype. When a stereotype-defying role model is very salient and known, such as President Obama, it is believed this eliminates the effects of negative stereotyping on performance. A role-model must be seen as competent, as an ingroup role model for the stereotyped group of individuals, and the group must be well-aware of the role model’s success in areas where the group is negatively stereotyped. The researchers hypothesized Obama’s negative-stereotype defying success will reduce race-performance differences even when the participants are aware of the stereotype threat as long as Obama’s success is well-known and salient. Also, the “Obama Effect” does not eliminate Black-Americans’ concern for confirming the negative stereotype. However, it will prevent the negative stereotype from affecting their performance.
For the study, 472 participants took part from all over the country; 83 African-Americans, and 388 Caucasians. The two groups were matched on English proficiency and also education level, in order to eliminate any possible confounds relating to intelligence. Data was collected at four times, either at a time when Obama’s success was salient, or less apparent. These times were before he was nominated to be the democratic presidential candidate, right after his acceptance of the candidacy, during the presidential campaign, and right after he won the presidential race. The second and fourth times are when his role model salience was high.
The test was administered to participants via email. The test mimicked the GRE and included 20 previous GRE questions. Participants had 15 minutes to complete the online exam. Participants were told the purpose of the study was to examine how people with different experiences solve problems. They were then told about the verbal exam. To activate the stereotype threat, participants were told the verbal exam was developed by the Massachusetts Aptitude Assessment Center, as a diagnostic tool to evaluate verbal problem-solving ability, and that it identifies the person’s intellectual strength and weaknesses. They were also asked to identify their race before taking the exam. After the test to make sure participants were worried about confirming the negative stereotype, participants were asked three questions concerning this issue.
The results all confirm the hypothesis. At times one and three, when Obama’s success in defying the negative stereotype was not very salient, Black-Americans performed worse than White-Americans on the test under the stereotype threat. At times...