Tag Archives: Stereotype threat

Activate Women’s, Minorities’ Stereotype Threat Reactance to Enhance Performance

Claude Steele

Claude Steele

Stereotype threat, defined as activating prevailing but often-inaccurate concepts of a group’s typical behavior, was consistently 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.

Joshua Aronson

They found that eliciting “reactance” or resistance to these stereotypes improved women’s and African Americans’ performance more than activating a positive shared identity, such as shared membership in a respected group.

Anthony Greenwald

Anthony Greenwald

Stereotypes may be invoked by implicit primes, which led both men and women to confirm gender stereotypes even when they explicitly disavowed stereotypes and associated prejudice, 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.

Laura Kray

Laura Kray

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 transcended gender.

Gordon Moskowitz

Gordon Moskowitz

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.
They differentiated:

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.

Ryan P. Brown

Ryan P. Brown

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.”

Robert A Josephs

Robert A Josephs

People can manage stereotype threat by explicitly referring to 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?

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Self-Stereotypes Still Limit Women’s Performance

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.

Larry Hedges

Larry Hedges

Susan L Forman

Susan L Forman

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.

Lynn Arthur Steen

Lynn Arthur Steen

Asian-American women are susceptible to two conflicting stereotypes regarding quantitative performance.
-*Which stereotype most influences performance?

Margaret Shih

Margaret Shih

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.

Todd Pittinsky

Todd Pittinsky

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.

Nalini Ambady

Nalini Ambady

The stereotype threat of gender identity contributed to poorer performance among individuals who could perform better.

Claude Steele

Claude Steele

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.

Joshua Aronson

Joshua Aronson

Yale’s Becca Levy demonstrated the same effect by priming elderly participants with a negative stereotype of older people.

Becca Levy

Becca Levy

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.

Toni Schmader

Toni Schmader

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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Power, Confidence Enhance Performance Under Pressure    

Sonia K. Kang

Sonia K. Kang

Role-based power can affect performance in pressure-filled situations, but has less impact on lower pressure environments, according to University of Toronto’s Sonia K. Kang, Adam D. Galinsky of Columbia University, University of California, Berkeley’s Laura J. Kray and Aiwa Shirako of Google.

Kang’s team assigned more than 130 volunteers to same-gender pairs in three negotiations experiments.
Half the participants acted as a “recruiter” (high-power role) or as a “job candidate” (low-power role) in negotiating salary, vacation time, and related benefits.

Adam Galinsky

Adam Galinsky

Volunteers were told that performance either reflected negotiation ability or was unrelated to ability.
Participants in high power roles tended to perform better under pressure when they were told their negotiation performance was an accurate reflection of ability.
Kang attributed this result to participants’ higher expectations for success based on the higher power role.

Job candidates who thought their negotiation performance indicated their skill level performed significantly worse than those who thought that the exercise was a learning experience unrelated to their negotiating capabilities.

Claude Steele

Claude Steele

Results were similar to Claude Steele of Stanford’s findings for stereotype threat and stereotype uplift, in which individuals from marginalized groups perform less effectively than members of higher-power groups, linked to negative self-attributions and expectations.
Low-power negotiators counteracted underperformance when they self-affirmed their performance.

Laura Kray

Laura Kray

Kang and team concluded that “relative power can act as either a toxic brew (stereotype/low-power threat) or a beneficial elixir (stereotype/high-power lift) for performance… (because) performance in high pressure situations is closely related to expectations of behavior and outcome… Self-affirmation is a way to neutralize … threat.

Aiwa Shirako

Aiwa Shirako

In another experiment, 60 male MBA students were paired as the “buyer” or “seller” of a biotechnology plant.
The sellers held a more powerful role in this situation, and were more assertive, reflected by negotiating a higher selling price, when they thought performance reflected ability.
In contrast, buyers performed worse when they thought negotiating performance reflected ability.

Kang’s team extended this scenario with 88 MBA students (33 male pairs and 11 female pairs), who were told the exercise would gauge their negotiating skills.
Before the negotiation, half of the participants wrote for five minutes about their most important negotiating skill, while the remaining half wrote about their least important negotiating skill.

Francesca Gino

Francesca Gino

Buyers who completed the positive self-affirmation performed significantly better in negotiating a lower sale price for the biotechnology plant, effectively reducing the power differences between the buyer and seller.

Based on these findings, Kang, like Harvard’s Francesca Gino, advocates writing self-affirmations rather than simply reflecting on positive self-statements about job skills and positive traits to enhance confidence and performance.

-*How do you mitigate differences in role-based power and confidence when performing under pressure?

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