Achievement Imagery of Children`s Books and School Textbooks and (Academic) Performance

DFG Project by Stefan Engeser

The Project

Based on the preceding research project, further research will be conducted on the relationship between achievement imagery in children's books and school textbooks and (academic) performance. Previously, both correlational studies ("field studies") and experimental studies were performed. We could confirm our expectation in the field study with children's books, (Engeser, Hollricher, & Baumann, 2013): Academic achievement was higher in German federal states when children's books with higher achievement imagery were more popular in the state. In the current project, we will research this relationship on the individual level. We will assess the actual use of children's books, the academic performance of the children, and the motives and values of their parents. With these measures, we would like to confirm the assumption that achievement imagery of children's books is related to academic performance and that there is a transmission of parent motives and values via children's books.

Results of the field studies on the relationship between the achievement imagery of school textbooks and academic performance confirmed our expectation for the fourth grade as well (albeit more so for math than for language) both on the level of the federal states and on the classroom level within the framework of two international large-scale fourth grade educational assessments (Engeser, Euen, & Bos, 2015). We will try to replicate the latter finding and experimentally examine the results of the fourth graders as well. In the field studies for ninth graders, we could not confirm our expectation. (Engeser et al., submitted). For math we even found occasional negative relationships. This latter finding will be studied in more details in our experimental studies.

In our experimental studies, we have shown that reading excerpts of school textbooks (math and language) with higher achievement imagery is associated with higher performance (Engeser & Baumann, 2014; Engeser, Baumann, & Baum, in revision). This finding indicates that school textbooks could prime achievement behavior and performance. Further results indicate that the positive effect on performance is mediated by higher explicit achievement motivation and higher expectations to perform well (Engeser & Baumann, 2014). This stands in contrast to our primary expectation that the effect is mediated by implicit achievement motivation and heightened subjective incentives for good performance: We even found some evidence for negative effects. Based on these results, we will consider contrast effects, differentiate between primes related to expectation and incentives, and examine individual differences with respect to internal and external achievement motivation. Additionally, we will study the process variables of the priming effect (cf. Engeser & Baumann, 2014) and will study priming effects for fourth graders. With all this, we want to gain a better understanding of priming effects as well as the negative effects found in our previous studies, and we would like to ensure that practice-relevant implications can be derived for improving learning materials in order to foster learning and performance.


Engeser, S., Hollricher, I., & Baumann, N. (2013). The stories children's books tell us: Motive-Related imageries in children's books and their relation to academic performance and crime rates. Journal of Research in Personality, 47, 421-426.

Engeser, S. & Baumann, N. (2014). Does achievement motivation mediate the semantic achievement priming effect? Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 143, 1861-1874. doi: 10.1037/a0036864

Engeser, S., Euen, W., & Bos, B. (2015). Leistungsthematischer Gehalt von Schulbüchern und Bildungsleistung in der Grundschule [Achievement imagery of schoolbooks and academic performance in elementary school]. Zeitschrift für Pädagogische Psychologie29, 65-75. doi: 10.1024/1010-0652/a000150

Engeser, S. Baumann, N., & Baum, I. (2016). Schoolbook Texts: Semantic Achievement Priming in Math and Language. PLoS ONE, 11, e0150497. Doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0150497

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