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In an experiment, researchers randomly assigned college students in an introductory calculus class into four groups. All groups were given the same set of questions in an exam, but the exam began with a brief introductory statement that differed for each group, establishing differing expectations for student performance, as follows: Group A: The introduction stated that most students are expected to pass the exam. Group B: The introduction stated that most students are expected to fail the exam. Group C: The introduction included statistics that showed female students performing worse than male students on similar exams. Group D: The introduction contained no information on expected performance. The results of the experiment are given in the bar graph below: <image 1> What phenomenon best explains the performance differences between Groups A and B?

(A) Social facilitation

(B) Group polarization

(C) Self-serving bias

(D) Unstable attribution

(E) The Pygmalion effect

Answer with the option's letter from the given choices directly. No punctuation.


Expected Answer: E

Difficulty: Easy

Subfield: Developmental Psychology

Explanation: When told that most students are expected to pass this exam, Group A students performed better than the control (Group D); Group B students, who were told that most students are expected to fail, performed worse than the control. These are both examples of self-fulfilling prophecies, specifically the Pygmalion effect, the tendency for students to perform better when presented with more positive expectations. (E) is correct. (A) is incorrect because social facilitation is the tendency to perform practiced and simple tasks better in front of an audience, but there was no difference between Groups A and B in testing circumstances besides the differently worded introduction. (B) is incorrect because group polarization describes a tendency for groups to move to extremes in beliefs and decisions, but it is not associated with differences between groups in average performance. (C) is incorrect because self-serving bias is the tendency to view personal successes as dispositional and personal failures as situational, which is not relevant to this experiment. (D) is incorrect because an unstable attribution is the belief that a result occurred due to a unique situation, which is again not relevant to the performance differences between Groups A and B.


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February 14, 2024