Research Library

Search over three decades of research on mindsets, including Mindset Scholars Network briefs and working papers, and other publications from Network studies and initiatives.

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Stereotype threat is being at risk of confirming, as self-characteristic, a negative stereotype about one's group. Studies 1 and 2 varied the stereotype vulnerability of Black participants taking a difficult verbal test by varying whether or not their performance was ostensibly diagnostic of ability, and thus, whether or not they were at risk of fulfilling the racial stereotype about their intellectual ability. Reflecting the pressure of this vulnerability, Blacks underperformed in relation to Whites in the ability-diagnostic condition but not in the nondiagnostic condition (with Scholastic Aptitude Tests controlled). Study 3 validated that ability-diagnosticity cognitively activated the racial stereotype in these participants and motivated them not to conform to it, or to be judged by it. Study 4 showed that mere salience of the stereotype could impair Blacks' performance even when the test was not ability diagnostic. The role of stereotype vulnerability in the standardized test performance of ability-stigmatized groups is discussed.

More than half of black college students fail to complete their degree work—for reasons that have little to do with innate ability or environmental conditioning. In this classic, timeless article from 1992, esteemed social psychologist Claude Steele argues that the problem is these students are undervalued, in ways that are sometimes subtle and sometimes not.

This study examined the cues hypothesis, which holds that situational cues, such as a setting’s features and organization, can make individuals vulnerable to social identity threat. Measures of identity threat were collected from male and female math, science, and engineering (MSE) majors who watched an MSE conference video depicting either an unbalanced ratio of men to women or a balanced ratio. Women who viewed the unbalanced video exhibited more cognitive and physiological vigilance, and reported a lower sense of belonging and less desire to participate in the conference, than did women who viewed the gender-balanced video. Men were unaffected by this situational cue.

The authors make 3 claims: (1) Stigmatization impedes the establishment of trust, (2) Mistrust elicited by stigmatization can cause motivation and performance to suffer, and (3) Allaying the threat of stigmatization will help to create trust and improve motivation. They describe the application of this theory to the issue of providing critical but constructive feedback across lines of difference. This same framework is used to understand how a "stigma of racism" may hamper the performance of teachers who work in demographically diverse classrooms. Intervention strategies are reviewed that may boost the achievement of minority students by allaying the threat of stigmatization and thus creating a basis of trust.

The author argues that sustained school success requires identification with school; that societal pressures on blacks and women can frustrate this identification; and that in school domains where these groups are negatively stereotyped, those who have become domain identified face the further barrier of stereotype threat, the threat that others' judgments or their own actions will negatively stereotype them in the domain. This threat depresses the standardized test performance of high-achieving women and African Americans and causes disidentification with school, but practices that reduce this threat can reduce these negative effects.

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