Journal of Applied Social Psychology

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Volume 21 Issue 6 (March 1991), Pages 433-523

Black Students' Reactions to Feedback Conveyed by White and Black Teachers (pages 460-481)

The present investigation examined some processes mediating self‐fulfilling prophecies among black students. Specifically, we hypothesized that feedback conveyed by black and white teachers would differentially influence black students' perceptions of how the teacher viewed their success/failure, effort, ability, luck and task difficulty. In addition, we hypothesized that negative feedback would affect perceptions of evaluations differently than positive feedback. Ninety black undergraduates participated in an experiment in which a black or white teacher (confederate) expressed one of five evaluative feedback responses to a student's score on an analogies test. The results provided partial support for the first hypothesis: black female students perceived white teachers as assessing their performance less positively: that is, they perceived them to underestimate their ability and the difficulty of the task. Negative feedback also led students to believe the teacher held an unfavorable but inaccurate impression of their ability and effort, and that the teacher underestimated the difficulty of the task. These findings suggest that black students—black females in particular—may assume that white teachers hold less favorable assessments of them than black teachers and all students may be sensitive to negative evaluations.

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