Nell Mohney illustrates the importance of attitude in Beliefs Can Influence Attitudes with a story that is fascinating. In the San Francisco Bay area some educators decided to conduct an experiment. They called three teachers together and told them that they had been selected because they were the brightest and most capable teachers in the school system. They also told them that for the coming school year they had been assigned 90 of the most advanced and academically gifted students in the area.

The administrators said, "We want you teachers to move these students through the school year at their own pace to see how much they will out-perform the rest of the school system. Because, of their higher I.Q.'s we know they will progress more quickly, but we would like to measure their achievement relative to the other students."

The three teachers and 90 students had a great school year. After all, the teachers had the opportunity to work with the best students, and the students had the best teachers. At the end of the year the students had achieved 20 to 30 percent above the average of students in the whole area.

At that point the teachers were called in and the principal said, "I have a confession to make. Your students were not the most intellectually gifted. They were chosen at random, so they were really just an average sampling of students." The teachers responded by saying, "So the students performed so well because they had the best teachers." The principal said, "I have another confession to make. You were not chosen because you are the brightest and most capable. Actually your names were chosen out of a hat."

Of course, what the students and teachers had not known was that the experiment was not about I.Q., nor was it even about what some are calling "E.Q.," or "emotional quotient." It was "A.Q." -- attitude quotient. It was to measure the extent to which what we think about ourselves affects our performance, and the results were dramatic. The students and teachers who were told they were the best and believed it performed the best.

Illustration from: Allan Moseley, "Overcoming the Grasshopper Complex," Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, North Carolina