Psychologist: Stupidity Is Contagious

College students were asked to read a story about a rather daft person, and then take a test. They did worse on that test than a control group that read a story about a non-idiot:

Sixty-three Austrian students read "Slow on the Uptake," about Meier, who wakes, is confused by an adage on his calendar, gets drunk, attends a soccer match and misses the outcome because he brawls. The students either summarized the story or underlined passages where Meier differed from them. A control group of 18 read a story with an innocuous protagonist.

Afterward, on a difficult test covering geography, science and the arts, the students who had read about Meier but not underlined how he differed from them scored from 30% to 32%, compared to about 37% for the control group and for students who distanced themselves from the character.

Hollywood mentioned this tendency a few years ago.

Link -via Althouse | Image: Despair

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IMHO, the stereotype threat works by making the person self-conscious, others have shown that concerns about self-esteem whether optimistic or pessimistic inhibit performance (Crocker, Twenge). Which contradicts the earlier musings of Dr. Spock and Friends who felt that "self-love" was the key to success. According to Twenge this is why we now live in an ego-centric culture with the more recent human distribution being dubbed "Generation Me". She also hypothesizes it is the reason for rising mental illness. Drawing from popular culture, she illustrates the unprecedented narcissism of the current society. For example; in one episode of the RealityTV show "My Super Sweet 16" the young girl having the birthday party insists on having her parade floats drive past the emergency entrance for a hospital, when local authorities deny her request she becomes irritated and whiney. Despite having it explained to her that emergency vehicles need to use the street to deliver people in need of urgent medical care, the 16-year-old insists they can wait because She is having a party. All of this she links to the 1960s and the decay of our role-based society in favour of aimless self-seeking. See: The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement by Jean Twenge.
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