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Stereotype threat and performance: How self-stereotypes influence processing by inducing regulatory foci

By Beate Seibt, Universität Würzburg and Jens Förster


The authors hypothesized that activated self-stereotypes can influence the strategies of task solution by inducing regulatory foci. More specifically, positive self-stereotypes should induce a promotion focus state of eagerness, whereas negative stereotypes should induce a prevention focus state of vigilance. Study 1 showed that a negative ascribed stereotype with regard to task performance leads to better recall for avoidance-related statements whereas a positive stereotype leads to better recall for approach-related statements. In Studies 2 and 3, both an experimental manipulation of group performance expectation and the preexisting stereotype of better verbal skills in women than in men led to faster and less accurate performance in the positive as compared with the negative stereotype group. Studies 4 and 5 showed that positive in-group stereotypes led to more creative performance whereas negative stereotypes led to better analytical performance. These results point to a possible mechanism for stereotype-threat effects. “Blonds are dumb”; “ women can’t do math”; “White men can’t jump. ” If you bring members of a stereotyped group into an achievement situation where the stereotype could be applied, they often dramatically underperform if they believe their ability in that particular domain is measured. This was first shown by Steele and Aronson (1995) in their seminal work on the effect of stereotype activation on intellectual test performance of Blacks. In a series of studies, Blacks performed considerably poorer on a standardized test when it was presented as diagnostic of their abilities than when the same test was framed as a simple problem-solving task. No such difference emerged for Whites. This basic finding, named stereotype threat, has since been replicated several times with different groups and various stereotypes (e.g., Aronson et al.

Year: 2004
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