The Cognitive Impact of Evaluative ‘Grade’ Letters

Priming students with “evaluative letters” (i.e. letters used to grade papers, such as A and F) has a significant influence on their performance on cognitive tests. As you can imagine, primed with an A their performance on the cognitive tests improve, while those primed with an F displayed degraded performance.

That’s what researchers found when conducting a simple test while investigating the unconscious effect of primed letters on academic performance.

It has been proposed that motivational responses outside people’s conscious awareness can be primed to affect academic performance. The current research focused on the relationship between primed evaluative letters (A and F), explicit and implicit achievement motivation, and cognitive performance. […]

Our findings suggest that students are vulnerable to evaluative letters presented before a task, and support years of research highlighting the significant role that nonconscious processes play in achievement settings.