In the study made public on Thursday, Dr. Friedman and his colleagues compiled a brief test, drawing 20 questions from the verbal sections of the Graduate Record Exam, and administering it four times to about 120 white and black test-takers during last year’s presidential campaign.
In total, 472 Americans — 84 blacks and 388 whites — took the exam. Both white and black test-takers ranged in age from 18 to 63, and their educational attainment ranged from high school dropout to Ph.D.
On the initial test last summer, whites on average correctly answered about 12 of 20 questions, compared with about 8.5 correct answers for blacks, Dr. Friedman said. But on the tests administered immediately after Mr. Obama’s nomination acceptance speech, and just after his election victory, black performance improved, rendering the white-black gap “statistically nonsignificant,” he said.
The reason this doesn’t surprise me is that it has been well-documented that African-Americans do worse on tests if they are asked to identify themselves by race before their test, so clearly people’s preconceived ideas “race” and “intelligence” influence their performance on these things . And, unlike some, I’ve never been one for half-baked white supremacist ideas about IQ.
To some extent all of this stuff indicates that the notion of using standardized tests to measure “intelligence” (to the extent that such a thing exists and is quanitfiable in the first place) is complete horseshit. And it also goes to something that everyone should just admit: we live in a society that makes blacks feel bad about themselves in a way helps cause them to do poorly on the bogus aptitude exams that we administer in order to convince ourselves that we’re a meritocracy.
All of that said, if there really is an “Obama effect” on African-American performance on standardized tests (the study hasn’t even been peer-reviewed yet, so it’s much too early to say), it’s great news for our society.