A study published last year in the Journal of Consumer Research found that people were less likely to recycle a crumpled ball of paper than a piece of paper that resembled its original shape.
Why? The study’s authors concluded that “consumers are psychologically hardwired to believe that damaged or incomplete products — such as small or ripped paper and dented cans — are without value”.
“The process is seemingly autonomic”, says the author, “and can only be overcome by helping consumers realize a product’s true value.”
I share these findings because of the implications between this study and schools today.
- How many of our students come into our classrooms and don’t resemble our preconceived notions about what learners look, act and sound like? Like crumpled paper, maybe the clothes they regularly wear are wrinkled or torn.
- How do our biases prevent us from seeing the true potential in each one of our students? I think the first step is realizing we are all predisposed to bias.
- What is needed to help us realize each one of our students’ true value? In recognizing our bias, we can then take the time to reflect on each of our students’ progress and ask ourselves what we can do differently, instead of expecting things at home to change.
Through the process of self-awareness, reflection, and recommitment, we might see our neediest students, these “damaged goods”, as individuals with so much potential.