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Chapter 2

PSYC12H3 Chapter Notes - Chapter 2: Word Game, Ingroups And Outgroups, Stereotype Threat

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Michael Inzlicht

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PSYC12: Stereotype Threat Ch. 2: Role of Situational Cues in Signaling and Maintaining Stereotype
Steele: initial aim of stereotype threat research was to examine those factors suppressing the
intellectual performance of black students and women in math, science, & engineering.
Based upon longstanding national data both black students and women were reliably
underperforming in the classroom relative to their intellectual abilities, as shown by SAT
At every level of preparation matched with their white and male peers standardized tests
consistently over-predicted their achievement in school.
Stereotype threat research has shifted the paradigm regarding how social psychologists think
about and investigate causes of group differences in academic performance.
o Stereotype threat theory suggested that these differences might be attributed to
features of the situation
Insight was: When situational cues in a setting make a stereotype salient and
eleat to oe’s actions, the resulting psychological pressure to disprove the
stereotype might depress academic performance.
Since investigation in 1995, 400 studies have documented stereotype threat, investigating
those factors that trigger and temper its effects, and revealing the process by which it
influences psychological and behavioural outcomes.
The meaning(s) people derive from situational cues ultimately affects whether they become
vulnerable to or protected against stereotype threat.
The Role of Cues and Vigilance in Stereotype Threat
Drawing from SIT, stereotype threat theory begins with the assumption that each person has
multiple social identities (e.g., gender, age, race/ethnicity, SES).
Whe situatioal ues sigal a idetit’s alue o ipotae i a setting, that particular group
membership becomes more salient than the others and a vigilance process is initiated
Duig the igilae phase, people’s attetio is dieted to othe situatioal ues i the
environment to determine whether the identity may be a liability
o Two appraisals are possible:
If ues i the soial eioet disconfirm the possiilit that oe’s soial
identity will likely be a source of stigma, devaluation, or mistreatment, vigilance
relaxes performance & functioning are contingent only on the task at hand
If situatioal ues confirm the possiilit that oe’s soial idetit is likel to e
negatively evaluated, vigilance increases innocuous situational cues (i.e.,
istuto’s ae o se) a eoe ifused ith eaig as people try to discern
the probability of being devalued
Autho’s eseah iestigated this igilae poess  eaiig ho attetio is da to
relatively innocuous cues in a math, science, and engineering (MSE) environment, in which
gender stereotypes are abundant.
o Male & Female MSE majors watched a video adverting prestigious MSE summer
conference, that depicted a gender ratio of either 3 men to 1 women, or a balanced
gender ratio of 1:1.
o Women majors who watched the 3:1 video reported: (gender-unbalanced video)
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Less belonging to MSE and expressed little desire to attend the conference
Highly vigilant compared to women who watched the gender-balanced video
and men who watched either video; these women remembered more details of
the conference video.
Had faster heartbeats and sweatier palms indications of physiological
vigilance & stress.
Remembered more MSE-related cues planted in the lab room thus, the
situational cues of numeric representation caused these women to engage a
vigilance process deploying attention to situational cues, both within the video
and their local environment, to determine the values of their gender identity in
the MSE conference setting.
Individuals differ with regard to the likelihood and intensity that they engage the vigilance
Some people constantly scan almost every environment for situational cues that signal their
idetit’s alues – for example, they may be particularly sensitive to identity-based rejection or
highly conscious of the stigma associated with their identity.
For others, the vigilance process may begin only when cues disambiguate the likelihood of
identity-based judgments similarly, people have different thresholds by which firm appraisals
of identity threat are made.
Some individuals euie just oe stog situatioal ue, suh as a ooke’s seist oet,
whereas others might experience threat only when multiple cues converge.
Certain situational cues will be less threatening for people not personally invested in particular
domains (e.g., women who avoid MSE.
The degree to which one identifies with a domain moderates stereotype threat effects.
Experiences with situational cues and the unfolding stereotype threat processes that result can
ifluee people’s desie to idetif ith, and persist in, professional and academic domains.
o These igilae poesses a shape people’s epeiees i the futue steering their
attention toward similar situational cues in new environments.
Psychological and behavioural experiences of stereotype threat are grounded in an
eioet’s situatioal ues.
Situational Cues in Academic Settings
Majoit of steeotpe theat studies hae eaied the effets of situatioal ues o oe’s
ath pefoae o aial ioities’ aadei pefoae the primary goal of these
studies have been to investigated the processes that govern or modulate these performance
Two cues (diagnositicity of a test ad the eleae of a steeotpe to people’s test
performance) reliably produce stereotype threat among groups whose intellectual abilities are
negatively stereotyped.
o The cue of diagnositicity signals to people that the test they are about to take is a valid
predictor of their intellectual abilities.
o Diagositiit ue akes it lea that oe’s intelligence and competence is on the line
and will be evaluated.
Studies that evoke stereotype relevance either explicitly refer to group stereotypes or more
sutl suggest that steeotpes a e eleat to oe’s pefoae.
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o e.g. in studies examining stereotype threat among women in math, experimenters often
inform participants that men are known to outperform women on the impending math
tests, o othes etio that the epeiet’s pupose is to eaie gede diffeees
in mathematical performance.
In some studies, participants are told that gender differences have been documented on the
upcoming math testleaving people to infer the direction of the gender difference.
Reseah has sho that likig oe’s idetit to oe’s pefoae o futue potential subtly
suggests diagnositicity and relevance.
o e.g., idiatig oe’s ae o gede o deogaphi uestios ieases the saliee of
stereotypes related to those group memberships and reduce performance, both in the
lab and in the world
Highlighting the potential for evaluation also intensifies stereotype threat
o Telling participants that they will receive performance feedback following the test, or
that the test ill eeal thei stegths/eakess – amplifies threat
Stereotypes are made relevat  ephasizig a test’s ipotae, epliitl likig it to othe,
pesual oe ipotat ailities, suh as oe’s geeal itelligee o futue aadei
Stereotype relevance does not require heavy-handed experimental manipulation.
Studies have shown that when a test is notoriously important, such as when it predicts future
academic opportunities or scholarships no additional cue is necessary to induce stereotype
o e.g., when stereotyped students hoping to attend graduate school take GRE, or when
college-bound women take the AP Math Exam, both show stereotype threat
All that appears necessary for stereotype threat effects to emerge particularly in high-stakes
testing situations of personal importance is that individuals are both aware of the stereotype
and aware that the performance task is diagnostic of the ability in question.
Research has shown that the organization of a setting significantly moderates stereotype threat
Several studies have revealed that the number of whites or men in a setting can significantly
affect the performance of racial minorities and women.
In one experiment that manipulated the cue of numeric representation, women took a math
test in a room with two other test takers either with two other females, one male & one
female, or with two males.
o The effect of number was clear: With each male added to the setting, women showed a
linear decrease in math performance, whereas men remained unaffected by the cue.
o Other research shown, the mere presence of men or whites administering math and
intellectual ability tests caused underperformance among women and racial minorities
Thus, the physical arrangements and mere presence of certain groups within a
setting are subtle, but powerful, situational cues affecting stigmatized individuals
Stereotype threat occurs among other groups and in other situations besides women in math
and African Americans in academics.
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