Stereotype threat occurs when prevailing but often-inaccurate concepts of a group’s typical behavior are activated among these group members.
This experience is associated with reduced scores on standardized test performance for women and African Americans in numerous studies by Stanford’s Claude Steele and Joshua Aronson now of NYU.
When Steele and Aronson elicited “reactance” (resistance) to these stereotypes, women’s and African Americans’ performance improved more than when the researchers activated a positive shared identity.
Stereotypes can be invoked by implicit primes, which led both men and women to confirm gender stereotypes even when they explicitly disavowed stereotypes, found University of Washington’s Anthony Greenwald and Mahzarin Banaji, then at Yale.
However, when evaluators focused on tasks, including judgment challenges about members of a stereotyped group, judges were less likely to render discriminatory decisions.
In contrast, both women and men showed stereotype reactance — the tendency to behave in contrast with the stereotype in negotiation tasks — when stereotypes were elicited with explicit primes, reported University of California, Berkeley’s Laura Kray, Leigh Thompson of Northwestern and Columbia’s Adam Galinsky.
Stereotype threat can be advantageous to men when negotiating with women, who are stereotypically considered less skillful negotiators.
Unlike Steele’s finding, Kray’s team observed performance-equalizing effects of activating a shared identity that transcends gender.
People can dissociate themselves from prevailing stereotypes with contrast primes, according to Lehigh University’s Gordon B. Moskowitz and Ian W. Skurnik of University of Utah.
–Standard-of-Comparison Prime, which produces greatest contrast by citing an extreme illustration.
This strategy relies on perception and requires less cognitive effort.
–Set–Reset Prime, which typically uses trait descriptions, and produces greatest contrast when moderate rather than extreme.
This approach requires significant mental effort.
Even men are not immune to stereotype threat.
Male participants “choked” when performing after a positive male stereotype was activated by University of Oklahoma’s Ryan P. Brown and Robert A. Josephs of University of Texas.
Similar to women’s performance decrements in response to negative stereotype threat, Brown and Josephs hypothesized that men’s performance was undermined by “pressure to live up to the standard.”
People can manage stereotype threat by explicitly mentioning the stereotype to activate reactance.
In addition, it’s valuable to refer to a shared identity that transcends the stigmatized group identity.
Eliciting contrast effects through examples and trait descriptions is another way to diminish the impact of stereotype threat of performance.
- How do you manage stereotype threat for yourself and others?
- How effective have you found activating stereotype reactance?
- Expressing Anger at Work: Power Tactic or Career-Limiting Strategy?
- Anxiety Undermines Negotiation Performance
- Power Tactics for Better Negotiation
- Women Balance on the Negotiation Tightrope to Avoid Backlash
- Negotiation Style Differences: Women Don’t Ask for Raises or Promotions as Often as Men