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Chapter 2

PSYC12H3 Chapter Notes - Chapter 2: Standardized Test, Ingroups And Outgroups, Stereotype Threat

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Michael Inzlicht

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Focuses on how stereotype threat is produced and sustained through threatening situational cues in the
environment organization, features & physical characteristics that suggest the possible mistreatment and
devaluation of stigmatized individuals
The meaning people assign to those cues affects whether they will be vulnerable or protected against
stereotype threat
The initial aim of stereotype threat research was to examine those factors suppressing the intellectual performance
of black students and women in math, science and engineering
Both groups underperformed the SATs
Steele and colleagues = began to investigate whether contending with negative stereotypes, themselves,
might be restricting the academic performance of these groups
Stereotype Threat: A person in Context
Causes of these groups differences in academic performance theorizing that the causes might be attributed
to features of the situation
When situational cues in a setting make a stereotype salient and relevant to one’s actions, the resulting
psychological pressure to disprove the stereotype might depress academic performance
Situational cues can create an atmosphere of identity safety for stigmatized groups, alleviating stereotype
threat effects
The Role of Cues and Vigilance in Stereotype Threat
Stereotype threat theory begins with the assumption that each person has multiple social identities (e.g.
gender, age, race/ethnicity, SES)
When situational cues signal an identity’s value or importance in a setting – that particular group membership
becomes more salient than the others and vigilance process is initiated
During vigilance phase of stereotype threat, people’s attention is directed to other situational cues in the
environment to determine whether the identity may be a liability
1. If cues in the social environment disconfirm the possibility that one’s social identity will likely to be
a source of stigma, devaluation, or mistreatment, vigilance relaxes performance is congruent to
the task at hand
2. If cues confirm the possibility that one’s social identity is likely to be negatively evaluated,
vigilance increases
Consequently even seemingly innocuous situational cues like an instructors race or sex
can be imbued with meaning as ppl try to discern the probability of being devalued in a
This research investigated this vigilance process by examining how attention is drawn to relatively innocuous
cues in a math, science, and engineering (MSE) environment which long-standing gender stereotypes
In this study:
o Male and female MSE majors watched a video advertising a prestigious MSE summer conference,
that depicted a gender ration of either 3 men to 1 women or balanced gender ration of 1:1
o Measured participant’s psychological and physiological vigilance as they watched the video
Women majors who watched the 3:1 video, reported less belonging in the MSE and expressed
little desire to attend the conference -- they were more highly vigilant compared to women who
watched the gender balance video and men who watched either video
Women remembered more detail of the conference video, faster heartbeats, sweatier palms, the
cue focused women’s attention on their broader social environment
Women who watched the gender-unbalanced video remembered more MSE-related cues planted
in the lab room, including books, journals, posters of Einstein and other groups
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o THUS situational cues of numeric representation caused these MSE women to engage in vigilance
process deploying attention to situational cues, both within the video and their local environment
to determine the value of their gender identity in the MSE conference setting
Individuals differ with regard to the likelihood and intensity that they engage in the vigilance process
o 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
Clear that psychological and behavioral experiences of stereotype threat are grounded in an environment’s
situational cues
Situational Cues in Academic Settings
Steele and Aronson
o The diagnosticity of a test and relevance of a stereotype to people’s test performance – reliably
produce stereotype threat among groups whose intellectual abilities are negatively stereotyped
o Diagnosticity cue (that test is a valid predictor of their intellectual ability) clear that one’s intelligence
and competence is on the line and will be evaluated
o Studies that evoke stereotype relevance either explicitly refer to group stereotypes and more subtly
suggest that stereotypes may be relevant to one’s performance
Some studies experimenter inform participants that men are known to outperform women on
the impending math test
Research shown that linking one’s identity to one’s performance or future potential subtly suggests
diagnosticity and relevance
Some questions can increase the salience of stereotypes related to those group memberships and reduce
Highlighting potential for evaluation also intensifies stereotype threat
Studies have show that stereotype relevance does not require heavy-handed experimental manipulations
no additional cue is necessary to induce stereotype threat (e.g. college women take the AP math exam) show
stereotype threat underperformance
All that appears necessary for stereotype threat effects to emerge is = individual aware of the stereotype and
aware that the performance task is diagnostic of the ability in question
Research show that the organization of a setting significantly moderates stereotype threat effects
One Experiment:
o Manipulated the cue of numeric representation
o Women took a math test in a room with two other test-takers either 2 females, one male and 1
female OR 2 males
o With each man added to the setting, women showed a linear decrease in math performance,
whereas men remained unaffected by the cue
Thus the physical arrangements and mere presence of certain groups within a setting are subtle, but powerful,
situational cues affecting stigmatized individuals
In fact, people from all social groups can be affected by identity-threatening cues and experience the
cognitive, behavioral and emotional disruptions of stereotype threat
o Lationos, negatively stereotyped as intellectually inferior underperform on math and spatial ability
o Low-income students may underperform when their SES background is highlighted
o Men’s math performance can become vulnerable when compared to that of Asian American
In a set of studies investigating the effects of the Media (Davies and Colleagues)
o Showed women and men three different sets of prime-time TV commercials
i. Neutral commercials that advertised products unrelated to gender
ii. Gender-stereotypic depictions of women advertisement
iii. Counter-stereotypic depicts of women advertisement (e.g. attractive woman impresses a
man with her car knowledge)
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