Affirming both independent and interdependent values improves achievement for all students and mitigates cultural mismatch for first‐generation college students

Hecht et al. / Journal of Social Issues / January 2021

Many first‐generation college students—whose parents have not obtained a 4‐year college degree—experience a “cultural mismatch” due to a lack of alignment between the independent values of their university (consistent with the culture of higher education) and their own interdependent values (consistent with working‐class culture). We documented this mismatch at a 4‐year university, and then tested a values‐affirmation intervention in a laboratory study that encouraged students to affirm both independent values and interdependent values. We compared this intervention, which had not previously been tested in a 4‐year university, to a standard values‐affirmation intervention and control. This intervention increased first‐generation students’ perceptions of cultural match and improved achievement on a math test for all students, on average, by increasing confidence and reducing distraction on the test. Encouraging students to integrate independent and interdependent values may improve first‐generation college students’ experiences in higher education.