Stereotype Threat Overview

Topics: Stereotype, Stereotypes, Ethnic stereotype Pages: 32 (11144 words) Published: June 24, 2013

By Steve Stroessner and Catherine Good Reprinted and adapted with permission. Adapted by R. Rhys

Over 300 experiments on stereotype threat have been published in peer-reviewed journals. Learn more at

Consequences of stereotype threat can contribute to educational and social inequality of some groups including ethnic minorities in academic environments and women in math. Just a few negative outcomes are: • limiting domains of study students wish to pursue; • not valuing an area of study (Aronson, Fried, & Good 2002; Osborne, 1995; Steele, 1997); and • narrowing students’ career options. The purpose of this article is to provide a summary and overview of published research on stereotype threat. It contains highlights from the web site by Stroessner and Good. You are strongly encouraged to visit this site for a more comprehensive review. By doing so you may increase your understanding of the phenomenon known as stereotype threat and gain strategies to reduce its occurrence and impact (Johns, Schmader, & Martens, 2005). What is stereotype threat? Stereotype threat refers to being at risk of confirming, as a self-characteristic, a negative stereotype about one's social group (Steele & Aronson, 1995). The term, stereotype threat, was first used by Steele and Aronson (1995) who showed in several experiments that Black college freshmen and sophomores performed more poorly on standardized tests than White students when their race was emphasized. When race was not emphasized, however, Black students performed better and equivalently with White students. The results showed that performance in academic contexts can be harmed by the awareness that one's behavior might be viewed through the lens of racial stereotypes. In general, the conditions that produce stereotype threat are ones in which a highlighted stereotype implicates the self though association with a relevant social category (Marx & Stapel, 2006; Marx, Stapel, & Muller, 2005). When one views oneself in terms of a salient group membership (e.g., "I am a woman. Women are not expected to be good at math.” and “This is a difficult math test."), performance can be undermined because of concerns about possibly confirming negative

stereotypes about one's group. Thus, situations that increase the salience of the stereotyped group identity can increase vulnerability to stereotype threat. Who is impacted? Everyone is vulnerable to stereotype threat, at least in some circumstances. Research has shown that stereotype threat can harm the academic performance of any individual for whom the situation invokes a stereotype-based expectation of poor performance. Everyone belongs to at least one group that is characterized by some sort of stereotype. Any salient social identity can affect performance on a task that offers the possibility that a stereotype might be confirmed. Stereotype threat effects have been shown with a wide range of social groups and stereotypes including, but not limited to: women in math (e.g., Spencer, Steele, & Quinn, 1999; Walsh, Hickey, & Duffy, 1999); Whites with regard to appearing racist (Frantz, Cuddy, Burnett, Ray, & Hart, 2004); students from low socioeconomic backgrounds compared to students from high socioeconomic backgrounds on intellectual tasks (e.g., Croizet & Claire, 1998; Harrison, Stevens, Monty, & Coakley, 2006); men compared with women on social sensitivity (Koenig & Eagly, 2005); Whites compared with Asian men in mathematics (e.g., Aronson, Lustina, Good, Keogh, Steele, & Brown, 1999); Whites compared with Blacks and Hispanics on tasks assumed to reflect natural sports ability (e.g., Stone, 2002); and young girls whose gender has been highlighted before completing a math task (Ambady, Shih, Kim, & Pittinsky, 2001). There are factors which may play a role in one’s “stereotype...
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