A common cultural stereotype in the U.S. is that women perform more poorly than men on quantitative tasks and that Asians perform better than other groups.
Test performance data support these perceptions, according to separate findings by Northwestern’s Larry V. Hedges and Amy Nowell, then of University of Chicago, as well as by Susan L. Forman and Lynn Arthur Steen of St. Olaf College.
Asian-American women are susceptible to two conflicting stereotypes regarding quantitative performance.
-*Which stereotype most influences performance?
UCLA’s Margaret Shih, Todd L. Pittinsky of SUNY, and Stanford’s Nalini Ambady activated ethnic identity or gender identity before Asian-American women competed a mathematics test.
Volunteers performed better when their Asian ethnic identity was activated, but worse when their gender identity as females was activated, compared with participants who had neither identity activated.
The stereotype threat of gender identity contributed to poorer performance among individuals who could perform better.
This effect was demonstrated among African-American students, who were stereotyped to be poor students.
These volunteers underperformed compared with white students in a study by Stanford’s Claude Steele and Joshua Aronson of NYU.
Yale’s Becca Levy demonstrated the same effect by priming elderly participants with a negative stereotype of older people.
These volunteers performed more poorly on a memory task in contrast to their superior performance when they were primed with a positive stereotype of aging.
Individuals vulnerable to stereotype threat can mitigate effects by symbolically disconnecting from the self-reputational threat, according to Shen Zhang, then of University of Wisconsin with University of British Columbia’s Toni Schmader and William M. Hall.
They asked male and female volunteers to complete a math test using their real name or a fictitious name.
Women who used a fictitious name performed significantly better than those who used their actual names, and they reported less self-threat and distraction.
Zhang and team posited that women performed better when they were not part of a group attributed with poorer math performance.
In contrast, male participants performed equivalently when completing the math problems using real and fictitious names, suggesting that stereotype threat is not activated for men during quantitative tasks.
Stereotyping by others and even oneself can undermine task performance, yet consciously refuting the preconception may mitigate these effects.
-* What other approaches do you use to reduce and manage stereotype threat?
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