WWC review of this study

A brief social-belonging intervention improves academic and health outcomes of minority students.

Walton, G. M., & Cohen, C. L. (2011). Science, 331(6023), 1447–1451. doi:10.1126/science.1198364.

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
     examining 
    37
     Students
    , grade
    PS

Reviewed: October 2021

At least one finding shows strong evidence of effectiveness
At least one statistically significant positive finding
Meets WWC standards without reservations
Academic achievement outcomes—Statistically significant positive effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
    index
Evidence
tier

Cumulative GPA (sophomore - senior year)

Social Belonging vs. Business as usual

3 Years

Black;
37 students

3.60

3.34

Yes

 
 
24
 
More Outcomes
Show Supplemental Findings

Cumulative GPA (sophomore - senior year)

Social Belonging vs. Business as usual

3 Years

Full sample;
70 students

3.57

3.48

No

--

Cumulative GPA (sophomore - senior year)

Social Belonging vs. Business as usual

3 Years

White;
33 students

3.54

3.61

No

--


Evidence Tier rating based solely on this study. This intervention may achieve a higher tier when combined with the full body of evidence.

Characteristics of study sample as reported by study author.

  • Race
    Black
    100%
  • Ethnicity
    Not Hispanic or Latino    
    100%

Setting

The study took place at a selective university in the United States.

Study sample

Study participants were students in the spring term of their freshman year. The total analytic sample included 31 students in the intervention group and 39 students in the comparison group. Among the Black students, 18 were in the intervention group and 19 were in the comparison group.

Intervention Group

The goal of the intervention was to decrease students’ psychological perceptions of social threat on campus by framing social adversity as common and transient. Students in the intervention group read narratives that purportedly described the social experiences of upper-level students in their first year at the university who worried about whether they belonged in college. The narratives encouraged students to attribute adversity to common and transient aspects of transitioning to college rather than something unique to themselves or their ethnic group. The researchers used several steps to encourage the students to internalize the message including having the students write an essay about their own experiences and give a video testimonial for future students. The intervention was delivered in approximately one hour.

Comparison Group

Students in the comparison group performed similar activities. However, these students received narratives that were unrelated to social belonging. The activities for these students also took about one hour.

Support for implementation

Additional information is not available about the implementation of the Social Belonging intervention.

In the case of multiple manuscripts that report on one study, the WWC selects one manuscript as the primary citation and lists other manuscripts that describe the study as additional sources.

  • Walton, G. M., & Cohen, G. L. (2007). A question of belonging: Race, social fit, and achievement. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92(1), 82–96. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.92.1.82

Reviewed: February 2016

At least one finding shows strong evidence of effectiveness
At least one statistically significant positive finding
Meets WWC standards without reservations
Academic achievement outcomes—Statistically significant positive effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
    index
Evidence
tier

GPA

Social Belonging vs. Business as usual

1 Semester

Black students;
37 students

3.49

3.34

Yes

 
 
25
 
More Outcomes

GPA

Social Belonging vs. Business as usual

1 Semester

White students;
33 students

3.64

3.61

No

--
Show Supplemental Findings

GPA

Social Belonging vs. Business as usual

1 Semester

Full sample;
70 students

3.55

3.48

No

--


Evidence Tier rating based solely on this study. This intervention may achieve a higher tier when combined with the full body of evidence.

Study sample characteristics were not reported.
  • Race
    Black
    53%
    White
    47%

Setting

The study took place at a selective university in the United States. Blacks in this university are not well represented as they are numeric minority.

Study sample

The students were in their second semester of their first year of postsecondary education in a selective college in the United States. In particular, the study was interested in looking at African-American students and the effects of the intervention on this specific subgroup. The analytic sample was comprised of 37 Blacks and 33 Whites.

Intervention Group

The intervention aimed to lessen psychological perceptions of threat on campus by framing social adversity as common and transient. Participants had to report to a lab to partake in the intervention. Students in the intervention group were provided with specific narratives from the researchers. The students read these narratives that aimed to make social adversity in school shared and short-lived. The messages from the narratives encouraged students to attribute adversity to common and transient aspects of transitioning to college rather than something unique to themselves or their ethnic group. The researchers used several steps to encourage the students to internalize the "saying-is-believing" message. Participants also read fabricated survey results that revealed that similar students faced the same challenges, but overcame them. Participants were then asked to write essays on how their personal experiences were reflected in the surveys. The total time of the intervention was approximately 1 hour.

Comparison Group

The control participants also reported to the lab and were involved in similar procedures. However, the survey and narratives these students received were unrelated to social-belonging. The process for these students also took about 1 hour.

Support for implementation

No support for implementation information was reported.

In the case of multiple manuscripts that report on one study, the WWC selects one manuscript as the primary citation and lists other manuscripts that describe the study as additional sources.

  • Walton, G. M., & Cohen, G. L. (2007). A question of belonging: Race, social fit, and achievement. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92(1), 82–96. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.92.1.82

Reviewed: January 2016

At least one statistically significant positive finding
Meets WWC standards without reservations
Academic achievement outcomes—Indeterminate effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
    index
Evidence
tier

GPA

Social Belonging vs. Business as usual

1 Semester

Full sample;
70 students

3.55

3.48

No

--
More Outcomes
Show Supplemental Findings

GPA

Social Belonging vs. Business as usual

1 Semester

Black students;
37 students

3.49

3.34

Yes

 
 
25

GPA

Social Belonging vs. Business as usual

1 Semester

White students;
33 students

3.64

3.61

No

--


Evidence Tier rating based solely on this study. This intervention may achieve a higher tier when combined with the full body of evidence.

Study sample characteristics were not reported.
  • Race
    Black
    53%
    White
    47%

Setting

The study took place at a selective university in the United States where Black students are a numeric minority.

Study sample

The students were in their second semester of their first year of postsecondary education in a selective college in the United States. In particular, the study focused on Black students and the effects of the intervention on this specific subgroup. Ninety-two students volunteered and were randomly assigned to conditions (50 intervention, 42 comparison). The final analytic sample was comprised of 37 Black students (19 intervention, 18 comparison) and 33 White students (20 intervention, 13 comparison).

Intervention Group

The intervention aimed to lessen students’ psychological perceptions of social threat on campus by framing social adversity as common and transient. Students in the intervention group read narratives from the researchers that purportedly described the social experiences of upper-level students at the university. The narratives encouraged students to attribute adversity to common and transient aspects of transitioning to college, rather than something unique to themselves or their ethnic group. The researchers used several steps to encourage the students to internalize the message, including having the students write an essay about their own experiences and give a video testimonial for future students. The total time of the intervention was approximately 1 hour.

Comparison Group

The comparison participants also reported to the lab and were involved in similar procedures. However, the narratives these students received were unrelated to social belonging. The process for these students also took about 1 hour.

Support for implementation

Information is not available about the implementation or costs of the social-belonging intervention.

Reviewed: December 2013

No statistically significant positive
findings
Meets WWC standards without reservations
Academic achievement outcomes—Indeterminate effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
    index
Evidence
tier

GPA

Social Belonging vs. Business as usual

Posttest

Full sample;
70 students

N/A

N/A

No

--
More Outcomes
Show Supplemental Findings

GPA

Social Belonging vs. Business as usual

Posttest

African American students;
37 students

N/A

N/A

No

--

GPA

Social Belonging vs. Business as usual

Posttest

European American students;
33 students

N/A

N/A

No

--


Evidence Tier rating based solely on this study. This intervention may achieve a higher tier when combined with the full body of evidence.

Study sample characteristics were not reported.
  • Race
    Black
    53%
    White
    47%
 

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