The 'Obama Effect': How a Salient Role Model Reduces Race-Based Performance Differences

Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 45 (2009) 953-956

4 Pages Posted: 6 Jun 2012

Date Written: June 5, 2012


Barack Obama, the first Black-American president, has been widely heralded as a role model for Black- Americans because he inspires hope. The current study was conducted to assess whether, beyond simply inspiring hope, this ‘‘Obama Effect” has a concrete positive influence on Black-Americans’ academic performance. Over a three-month period we administered a verbal exam to four separate groups of Blackand White-American participants at four predetermined times. When Obama’s stereotype-defying accomplishments garnered national attention – just after his convention speech, and election to the presidency – they had a profound beneficial effect on Black-Americans’ exam performance, such that the negative effects of stereotype threat were dramatically reduced. This effect occurred even when concerns about racial stereotypes continued to exist. The fact that we found performance effects with a random sample of American participants, far removed from any direct contact with Obama, attests to the powerful impact of ingroup role models.

Suggested Citation

Marx, David and Ko, Sei Jin and Friedman, Raymond A., The 'Obama Effect': How a Salient Role Model Reduces Race-Based Performance Differences (June 5, 2012). Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 45 (2009) 953-956, Available at SSRN:

David Marx

San Diego State University ( email )

5500 Campanile Drive
San Diego, CA 92182-0763
United States
619-594-8708 (Phone)

Sei Jin Ko

Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management ( email )

2001 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

Raymond A. Friedman (Contact Author)

Vanderbilt University - Organizational Behavior ( email )

401 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203
United States
615-322-3992 (Phone)
615-343-7177 (Fax)


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