I just read an article in the Economist “From He That Hath Not” that discusses Cognitive Disenhancement research. Subjects were told to think of Empowering or Disempowering experiences and their cognitive performance was tested. People who thought of disempowering experiences performed more poorly. However, I think this research was nothing compared to the work of a third grade school teacher in a small all white Iowa town, Jane Elliott.
Jane Elliott separated her class by eye color and discrimated against the brown eyed students for a day and then against blue eyed students for a day. The students who had been performing well as a whole suddenly showed a marked difference. The students discriminated against performed considerably poorer. When asked why they performed more poorly, the students discriminated against explained that they were preoccupied by the discrimination against them and could not concentrate. Afterward, having learned the effects of discrimination the students’ performance as a whole actually improved overall.
Jane was asked to perform the same experiment with adults and the same results were found.
Discrimination robs people of achieving their full potential in any pursuit.
Here is the Frontline video, “A Class Divided” (55 min)
The book “A Class Divided” can be found here.