Keep your eye fixed on the letter A

student enjoying an A festival Keep your eye fixed on the letter AA is definitely the first prize in any academic pursuit. You want to an A on your test/assignment and you want to be in the A group.

Unfortunately, you don’t always get assigned to the A group, this may be more than just a minor inconvenience, being assigned to the F group can have disastrous consequence for the sub-conscious.

This week’s Neurotechnology Tip explores the impact of letters on academic performance and reminds you to keep your eye on that letter A at all times.

The F group fail to make the grade

Undergraduates students attending Missouri University were required to complete a general intelligence test. They were split into two groups. The questions asked to each group were identical, but the coversheet on the test was a little different.

One group completed ‘Test Bank ID: A’ and the other group completed ‘Test Bank ID: F’.

At the start of the test, the test takers attention was drawn to this letter difference, since they were required to note which set of test questions they were completing. The ID letter was recorded at the top right hand corner of each sheet of the test by the participants.

F is for flunk, J is for …….

When the results were in, the learners completing Test Bank F questions came in significantly worse than the A group. The As scored on average 11.08 correct answers out of 12, the F’s scored only 9.42 correct.

The whole experiment was repeated with an additional twist. Some learners wrote ‘Test Bank ID: J’.

The A’s were still tops, then came the J’s and once more the poorest performers were the F’s.

Brain is grading itself

Our brain is wired to connect A’s with star performance and F with failure, the association has been developed through years and years of conditioning.

The brain doesn’t always think rationally. It sub-consciously responds to the letters it “sees”.

When it encounters a random A – it responds with an A kind of effort, but when it is exposed to an F, it shuts down, delivering a sub-standard performance.

Well this is what happens in University of Missouri undergraduates. Could it be happening to you ?

University of Missouri students thought not

When the students were questioned about their test performance, most of them recalled which test they had written, but did not believe they had been negatively influenced by the letter in any way.

But the science suggests the letters you look at just before a test, can set the brain into panic or perform mode.

Get your brain on the A track

Odds are you won’t be able to control which seat you’re assigned to during the exam session.

If you’re anything like me, you will probably find yourself in Row F, seat 13 – a seat assignment likely to cause a couple of sub-conscious brain hiccups.

Refusing to sit at that seat will cause more stress than it’s worth, so what should you do ?

Have an A festival

Throw away the lucky rabbit foot and surround yourself with A’s.

  • decorate your pencil box with As
  • balance your ruler across two pens to make an A
  • highlight all the A’s in your name when you write it on the script
  • doodle an A or two on the question paper when you find yourself stuck
  • write an A with your foot by twirling it around on the ground

An A festival might look a little odd, but it is a small price to pay to keep your brain on the A track.

 A versus F: The effects of implicit letter priming on cognitive performance. British Journal of Educational Psychology (2010) 80 (1): 99. Ciani, Keith D.; Sheldon, Kennon M.


To wire up your brain a little each week ………………..

Subscribe to Neurotechnology Tips

smart student Keep your eye fixed on the letter A

Know someone who will find this post useful ? Share it on , ,

Further reading

the popcorn experiment tn Keep your eye fixed on the letter A proof reading tip tn Keep your eye fixed on the letter A  fit neurons bring home As tn Keep your eye fixed on the letter A 
Autopilot eating turns movie viewing into monster jamboree  How to “see” those spelling mistakes that hurt you  You are getting graded for physical education

The 7 Big Spoons™…. are master switches that turn health on.

balance eicosanoids thumbnail Keep your eye fixed on the letter A rein in insulin thumbnail Keep your eye fixed on the letter A thumbnail dial down stress Keep your eye fixed on the letter A thumbnail sleep Keep your eye fixed on the letter A vitamin D thumbnail Keep your eye fixed on the letter A microflora thumbnail1 Keep your eye fixed on the letter A think like a champion thumbnail Keep your eye fixed on the letter A
Balance Eicosanoids Rein in insulin Dial down stress Sleep ! Increase Vit D Culivate microflora Think champion


Hire Dr Sandy from a Spoonful of Science to be the keynote speaker at your next event.

Did you learn something new or do you have a different perspective ? I’d love to hear from you so post me a comment below…..

This entry was posted in Neurotechnology Tip and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

One Trackback

  1. By » Blog Archive » Round up 10 Oct – 14 Oct on October 14, 2011 at 1:33 pm

    [...] Keep your eye fixed on the letter A [...]

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>