Self-Concept and Race: Basis for Reactions to a Short Story?

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The purpose of this study was to assess the identification responses of black female tenth-grade readers in relationship to the reader's self-concept and the race -- black or white -- of the central character in an investigator-constructed short story. The problem under investigation centers around two major probes:

  1. Do black female readers identify more with a white central character than with a black central character?
  2. Do the self-concepts of black female readers influence their capacity to identify with a central character in a short story? The study has significance for the potential contribution it may make in helping teachers, librarians, curriculum supervisors and others understand the ways in which black female tenth-grade readers respond to characters in a particular short story and select written works accordingly. A sample of 24 black female tenth-graders in a creative arts high school in the D.C. Public Schools reacted to two versions of an investigator-constructed short story about the physical self-concept of a black (version A1) and white (version A2) central character. Divided into two groups (A, B), the subjects responded to version A1 or A2 using a questionnaire constructed by the investigator to measure the subjects' identification responses. Both groups were administered the Personal Orientation Inventory, a standardized test used to measure their self-concept. Data from these two instruments were analyzed using a standard t test and a Pearson Product-Moment Correlation Coefficient to test the following research hypotheses: H1 The mean score for Group A as measured by the Self-Involvement Questionnaire will be greater than the mean score for Group B. H2 There is a positive correlation between students' scores obtained on the Self-Involvement Questionnaire and scores obtained on the Personal Orientation Inventory. The findings of the study lead to the conclusions that, within the limitation and implementation procedures of the study, the self-concepts of black female readers have an effect upon their capacity to identify with the central character in a short story. Students with high self-concepts tended to identify with the central character in a short story regardless of the race of the central character and, conversely, that students with low self-concepts tended to reject the central character, black or white. The study also showed that black, tenth-grade female readers do not identify more with a black central character than with a white central character. The major implication for teaching is that teachers, librarians, curriculum supervisors and others need to consider the self-concepts of their students in selecting and assigning written works.