You are what you are repeatedly told you are

Niranjan Rajadhyaksha writes on an interesting study conducted by two economists in 2004, on the self-fulfilling nature of stereotypes, when people tend to behave unconsciously in accordance with the way they are typecast, in Mint:

Karla Hoff of the World Bank and Priyanka Pandey of Pennsylvania State University collected a group of 622 boys and girls at a junior high school in a village in Uttar Pradesh. They wanted to find out the effects of caste on performance. These students were in classes VI and VII. Half were from the so-called upper castes and the other half from the so-called lower castes.

The children were asked to solve a maze. Those who successfully completed the game were rewarded with money. So, there was a clear economic incentive to play the game for the benefit of the researchers. At first, the castes of the participating children were kept secret. There was very little difference between the success rates of children across castes during this part of the experiment.

Then the castes of the participating children were publicly announced during a second round of the experiment. The lower-caste children suddenly performed significantly worse during this round. The number of mazes that they successfully solved fell by a quarter.

Read the full article: Escaping caste traps