Daphna Oyserman of the University of Michigan says nine out of 10 students see themselves as attending at least a two-year college. However, only those students who connect future job earnings to education are likely to work hard on homework.
Oyserman, graduate student Mesmin Destin and colleagues conducted a study that found Detroit middle-school children presented information connecting adult earnings to education were eight times more likely to do an extra credit assignment than those given a presentation about actors, musicians and sports figures.
"Even among children with the same starting grades, expecting to be a teacher, an engineer, or a nurse when you grow up predicts that they'll invest more time in homework," Oyserman says in a statement. "And, not surprisingly, they will have better grades over time than children who expect to have a job in sports, entertainment, or other areas that don't depend on having an education."
In one experiment 266 students were asked about jobs they see themselves having as adults. In another, 295 students were either shown jobs linked to education or jobs independent of education.
The study is published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.