?Supplemental Reading: Stereotype Threat Essay

In the article “A Threat in the Air: How Stereotypes Shape Intellectual Identity and Performance, ” Claude Steele discusses the empirical methods used to prove a psychological theory called stereotype menace. Stereotype menace offers a new method for construing “group differences in standardised trial tonss, ” peculiarly for African-Americans taking standardised verbal trials and for adult females taking standardised math trials ( p. 613 ) . It states that if person is in a state of affairs “for which a negative stereotype about one’s group applies, ” the person may “fear being reduced to that stereotype, ” which can in bend “ [ shackle ] their achievement” ( p. 614 ) . However, in order to see the effects of stereotype menace, one must self-identify with the state of affairs. This has distressing deductions as it implies that those who are most likely to see stereotype menace are likely the persons who show the most promise in their several field, but due to repeatedly sing stereotype menace may stop up disidentifying with that field ( p. 614 ) .

To back up the theory of stereotype menace Steele and his colleagues’ research focused on “the rational public presentation in the sphere in which the negative group stereotypes apply” and whether or non cut downing the force per unit area of stereotype menace would “improve the public presentation of otherwise stereotype-threatened students” ( p. 618 ) . To prove for stereotype menace in women’s public presentation in math, the research workers recruited a sample of male and female college sophomores who considered math an of import portion of their self-definition and gave them hard math inquiries from the GRE to reply. The research workers found that the female participants underperformed as compared to their every bit qualified male opposite numbers ( p. 619 ) .

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The research workers performed a similar experiment to prove for stereotype menace of African-Americans on standardised trials. In the experiment white and Afro-american Stanford pupils took a trial consisting of hard inquiries from the GRE verbal test. In one survey the test was presented as a trial of rational ability, and in the other it was presented as “a problem-solving undertaking unrelated to ability and therefore to the stereotype about ability” ( p. 620 ) . The research workers controlled for possible third-variable correlativity by mensurating participants verbal SAT tonss.

The consequences showed the presence of stereotype menace as the Afro-american participants performed every bit every bit good as the white participants in the first status but worse in the 2nd. In a 2nd experiment participants were primed by holding to enter their race on a “demographic questionnaire” prior to taking the trial. The survey found that Afro-american participants performed worse when they had to enter their race than in the control group, proposing that the “Salience of the racial stereotype entirely was adequate to deject the performance” of the Afro-american pupils ( p. 620 ) .

These experiments have of import deductions as they bring an of import variable into consideration when trying to account for the the spread in standardised trial tonss between Whites and African americans and between work forces and adult females. It besides discounts much of the racialist scientific discipline and pseudoscience that has been used to try to explicate this spread as a consequence of genetic sciences, in peculiar Charles A. Murray’s “The Bell Curve” . The experiment besides clearly exhibits the pressing demand to take demographic questionnaires from all standardised trials.


Steele, C. M. ( 1997, June ) . A Menace in the Air: How Stereotypes Shape Intellectual Identity and Performance. American Psychologist, 52 ( 6 ) , 613-629.



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