Potential and Downfall of Steretyping

Topics: Stereotype, Stereotype threat, Stereotypes Pages: 5 (1708 words) Published: February 25, 2012
The Downfall and Potential of Stereotyping
At some point in our lives many of us have stereotyped or fallen victim to a stereotype threat. We categorize the complex world into sections that fit our schema. Often times these ‘categories’ we create are inaccurate and harmful to others, and affect our mental process. The articles “Don’t let stereotypes warp your judgment” by Robert Heilbroner and “The many experiences of stereotype threat” by Claude M. Steele analyze and examine the effects of stereotyping.

In “Don’t let stereotypes warp your judgment”, Heilbroner covers the issue of stereotyping the origins of it and the negative effects of it on people. The author explains that stereotypes have negative effects on people because it sways them from the truth, blocks their perception of what individuals are really like, and is often the source of racism and prejudice. In addition to the negative effects, Heilbroner offers solutions to how people can rid themselves of stereotyping. In “The many experiences of stereotype threat” Steele seeks to find the driving factor behind stereotype threat. He uses a real-life incident that took place in his class to explain that anyone of any race, gender, ethnicity, or age is prone to stereotype threat if they are put in situations or settings where a person is exposed to a negative stereotype. Steele then makes a connection between people under stereotype threat and intellectual performance. Steele includes several studies conducted that led him to the conclusion that that participants who were put under a stereotype threat tend to conform to the negative stereotype thus, negatively affecting intellectual performance. Steele concluded that that when participants are under a stereotype, positive or negative, that person will likely perform according to the stereotype they are exposed to. Although Steele and Heilbroner identify the problems and negative effects of stereotyping, Heilbroner discusses how stereotyping blinds our judgment of others and offers solutions to stop stereotyping whereas Steele discusses that when a person is treated according to a specific social identity, people tend to conform to it. Both articles made me question the seriousness and severity of stereotyping and stereotype threat and persuaded me of the need to stop judging others based on stereotypes and at the same time prove it wrong with positive stereotypes.

Although Heilbroner and Steele both view stereotyping as having negative effects on people, Steele goes in depth with analyzing stereotyping and proves that positive stereotyping have positive effects on students taking standardized tests. Steele believes that situational pressure feeds stereotype threat and that it might be possible to change performances on standardized tests depending on which stereotype participants are reminded of. To test his theory Steele asked undergraduate Asian women to participate in a math test. Steele picked this group because, “Members of this group have two math-relevant identities: their gender identity, which is negatively stereotyped in math, and their ethnic identity, which is positively stereotyped in math” (Steele 253). The results found supported Steele’s theory; Asian women whose background questionnaire reminded them of their gender identity got 43 percent of questions attempted correct whereas those who filled questionnaires that didn’t remind them of their gender identity got 49 percent of questions correct. However, when the background questionnaires reminded the participants of their ethnic background, performance improved drastically and got 54 percent of the items they attempted correct. Steele claims that “These findings suggest a possible remedy for stereotyping threat effects: remind test takers of identities that counter the relevant stereotype” (Steele 254). Steele analyzes that negative stereotypes affects peoples’ intellectual performance negatively, but if countered with positive stereotypes,...
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