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Chapter 3

PSYC12H3 Chapter Notes - Chapter 3: Ventral Anterior Nucleus, Sympathetic Nervous System, Rebound Effect

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Michael Inzlicht

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PSYC12: Stereotype Threat: Ch. 3 An Integration of Processes that Underlie Stereotype Threat
The theory of stereotype threat has captivated those who have long struggled to understand why some
groups of people seem to systematically underperform in certain domains.
Only recently research has identified the process by which performance impairments occur
Situations of stereotype threat set in motion both automatic processes that activate a sense of
uncertainty and cue increased vigilance toward the situatio, oe’s pefoae, ad oeself.
By articulating the integration of the cognitive component and emotional process, you are able to
identify how policy changes and interventions can combat stereotype threat both by facilitating changes
to people’s stereotypes and by providing individuals with tools to better cope with threat.
“teele ad Aoso’s 99 disoe that pefoae ould e easil aipulated  ho a task is
described or who is present in the room was shocking.
Many cues in our immediate eioet a sigal i sutle ad ot so sutle as ou ultual fit
within that context.
Whereas the first wave of research on stereotype threat established that environmental cues exist and
can affect performance and behaviour for a wide range of groups on a wide range of tasks.
Early stereotype threat research searched for evidence that those who show performance reductions
when they are negatively stereotyped also report feeling more anxious, more concern about being
evaluated negatively, or lower expectations for how they would do.
Early lack of evidence for threat-based mediators led to speculation that stereotype threat effects were
not due to threat at all rather, that situations can prime negative stereotypes that individuals (even
those who are not the target of the stereotype) then automatically assimilate into their behaviour.
Both anxiety and negative stereotype activation are overly simplistic explanations for stereotype threat
o It is not just the case that individuals feel anxious when they are stereotyped and that is why
they underperform.
It is not just the case that stereotypes are activated and automatically induce stereotype-consistent
Stereotype threat involves both cognition and affective components and engages both automatic and
controlled processes.
Stereotype threat reduces performance by focusing specifically on articulating the automatic and
controlled effects stemming from the experience of being targeted by negative stereotypes.
Understanding what stereotype threat is, requires insight into what it does psychologically.
Stereotype threat characterizes a concern that one might inadvertently confirm an unwanted belief
aout oe’s goup.
Those who experience stereotype threat have a motivation to avoid enacting any behaviour that might
be seen as stereotypical.
o e.g., blacks anticipating having their intelligence assessed report less liking for stereotypically
black music and sports, and women majoring in math & science disciplines report dressing and
behaviours in less feminine ways.
This focus on preventing any form of stereotype confirmation does not simply affect
behavioural preferences, it also prompts more subtle changes in how one processes
information at both an automatic and a controlled level.
Automatic Activation of Threat
A featue of steeotpe theat is its ailit to affet pefoae ithout a peso’s osious
awareness of the stereotype having been activated.
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Many of the processes instigated by being the target of negative stereotypes happen automatically,
outside of osious aaeess, ad esult i outoes i diet oppositio to the peso’s epliit goals
and intentions.
First, situations that cue stereotype threat activates a schema of that stereotype this was shown by
Steele & Aronson (1995), who found that black college students expecting to take an intelligence test
were more likely than their white peers to complete word fragments like R_C_ with the word RACE
instead of alternatives like ROCK, RICE, RICH.
o This reveals that a cue as simple as the way a task is described can bring the stereotype to mind.
o Activating the stereotype might lead to stereotype threat only to the extent that it cues an
imbalance between three relevant popositios: I a a ee of Goup G, Goup G is
epeted to do pool at Doai D, ut I do ell at Doai D figue. .
It is the logical inconsistency among these propositions that is what actually constitutes
stereotype threat this implies that stereotype threat will be experienced most
strongly in those situations and for those individuals most likely to activate all three
ideas simultaneously.
The cognitive imbalance referred to above elicits other automatic but downstream consequences.
As humans have a fundamental motive for cognitive consistency, the immediate reaction is a sense of
uncertainty and self-doubt since one clear resolution to the imbalance is to activate a more negative
association between oneself and the domain.
o Some show that once doubt has been activated (even outside of awareness), it can color the
itepetatio of oe’s epeiee i as that disupt ogitie ailities.
Uncertainty is not an end state but as a phenomenological driver of additional processing aimed at
esolig the iosiste of oe’s thought poesses.
“ituatios of steeotpe theat aise opetig possile outoes I ould do pool as the steeotpe
pedits, o I ould do ell, osistet ith  goals ad past epeiee, ad oe’s attetio
becomes focused on cues that might provide evidence for or against either alternative.
Since the goal is to avoid confirmation of the stereotype oe’s attetio is likel to e oesesitie i
its detection of any signs that could indicate that unwanted outcome.
o As a result, cues that might be otherwise innocuous, such as feeling anxious during an interview,
can be over-interpreted as a sign of failure.
Evidence for increased vigilance for negative cues comes from Forbes et al. (2008) study where
patterns of brain activity were assessed in minority college students who thought their intelligence was
being assessed using neurological measurements.
o The researchers were interested in measuring activity in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) by
analyzing error related negativity (ERN), observed as a negative deflection in an event-related
potential occurring 50-100 ms after making an incorrect response.
o Past research confirmed that individuals show larger ERNS to errors when they are particularly
motivated to avoid mistakes or when they are being evaluated.
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o Results revealed that minority college students who were invested in doing well academically
exhibited greater vigilance (i.e., larger ERNS) to the errors they made during a simple response
time task when they believed that their intelligence was being assessed compared to when the
task was described more neutrally.
In addition to an automatic detection of errors and bias from others, people also become more vigilant
to signs of threat in their environment and to their own internal experience.
o e.g., women expecting to take a difficult math test (as opposed to a more neutrally described
problem-solving tasks) exhibited an automatic attentional shift toward anxiety-related words,
betraying the emotional state they were likely experiencing at the time.
“ituatios of steeotpe theat ig to id thoughts aout oe’s elatio to a alued doai that
oflit ith oe’s elatio to a alued goup that is steeotped to do pool.
This cognitive inconsistency triggers certain automatic effects, including a sense of uncertainty and
increased vigilance toward cues that might help one to detect, with the goal of avoiding, behaviour that
could confirm the stereotype.
These automatic effects ae opleeted  oe otolled poesses aied at aagig oe’s
behaviour, thoughts, emotions.
Explicit Efforts to Manage the Situation and One’s Response
Stereotype threat can affect our thoughts & behaviour via automatic processes that run largely outside
conscious awareness this is not the entire story.
The automatic processes that negative self-relevant stereotypes set in motion are accompanied by a
number of controlled processes that can affect performance often for the worse, but sometimes for
the better.
Increased Effort at the Task
A core tenet of stereotpe theat theo is that it ieases oe’s otiatio to disofi the
stereotype, however, increased effort is not purely a controlled or explicit process.
Jamieson & Harkins (2007) when people are threatened by how they might be evaluated, their
increased drive to perform well increases activation of the prepotent or dominant response to the task.
o The pole is that oe’s doiat espose is ot alas the est espose to ahiee
o Performance will be enhanced if the task is one that relies on a cognitively simple or well-
learned thought process or behaviour.
Performance will be impaired when the task is more cognitively challenging.
Stereotype threat increases arousal in a way that can facilitate a dominant response.
o e.g., Ben-Zeeve et al. (2005) demonstrated that women were faster to write their name
repeatedly when they were expecting to take a math test that had revealed gender differences
in the past compared to when they did not receive threatening instructions about the upcoming
Increased arousal due to stereotype threat facilitated a dominant response of name
writing in an automatic way.
Jamieson & Harkins (2007) expanded on the idea that automatic activation of a prepotent response to
suggest that steeotpe theat also ieases oe’s effots to oute that espose he it is idetified
as an error efforts that are likely to be more explicit and controlled in nature.
They employed an anti-saccade task in which people try to inhibit an automatic tendency to look
toward, or saccade to, a stimulus cue that flashes to the left or the right of a central fixation point on a
computer screen.
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