Thursday, August 10, 2017

Improving numeracy through values affirmation enhances decision and STEM outcomes

Greater numeracy has been correlated with better health and financial outcomes in past studies, but causal effects in adults are unknown. In a 9-week longitudinal study, undergraduate students, all taking a psychology statistics course, were randomly assigned to a control condition or a values-affirmation manipulation intended to improve numeracy.

By the final week in the course, the numeracy intervention (statistics-course enrollment combined with values affirmation) enhanced objective numeracy, subjective numeracy, and two decision-related outcomes (financial literacy and health-related behaviors). It also showed positive indirect-only effects on financial outcomes and a series of STEM-related outcomes (course grades, intentions to take more math-intensive courses, later math-intensive courses taken based on academic transcripts).

All decision and STEM-related outcome effects were mediated by the changes in objective and/or subjective numeracy and demonstrated similar and robust enhancements. Improvements to abstract numeric reasoning can improve everyday outcomes.

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