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Chapter 2

PSYC12H3 Chapter Notes - Chapter 2: Critical Mass, Stereotype Threat

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Michael Inzlicht

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Chapter 2: The Role of Situational Cues in Signaling and Maintaining Stereotype Threat
Initial aim of stereotype threat was to examine factors that suppress intellectual performance of black
students and women in math, science and engineering
Stereotype Threat: A Person in Context
Stereotype threat theory now posits that these differences in intellectual performance of marginalized
groups 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
The Roles of Cues and Vigilance in Stereotype Threat
Drawing from social identity theory, stereotype threat theory begins with the assumption that each person
has multiple social identities (age, gender, race, SES)
Vigilance process is initiated with situational cues make certain parts of one’s identity more salient or
During the vigilance phase of stereotype threat, people’s attention is direction to other situational cues in
the environment to determine whether the identity maybe a liability
o Vigilance increases in stereotype is evaluated negatively
o Vigilance relaxes when there is little possibility that identity will be source of stigma, devaluation
or mistreatment
Murphy, Steele, & Gross, 2007
o Women and Men were shown videos of a upcoming math, Science and engineering summer
conference with one video with 3 men to 1 woman in it or a video with equal numbers of both
genders represented
o Women shown the first video were more vigilant and higher rates of psychological and
physiological vigilance compared to women shown the second video
Individual variations in assessing and likelihood and intensity that they engage the vigilance process
o Some are particularly sensitive to identity-based rejection or highly conscious of stigma associated
with their identity
o Some need multiple instances of situational cue vs. just one strong one
o Some are more situational threatening
o Increased stereotype threat the more you identify with your group
Situational Cues in Academic Settings
Diagnositicity of the test and the relevance of a stereotype to people’s test performance reliably produces
stereotype threat among groups whose intellectual abilities are negatively stereotyped
o Diagnostic cue makes it clear that one’s intelligence and competence is one the line and will be
Research has shown that linking one’s identity to one’s performance or future potential subtly suggest
diagnosticity and relevance
o Indicating race or gender on demographic questions increases the salience of stereotypes related to
those gender group memberships and reduces performance in the lab and the world
o Increased threat when potential of evolution is high, performance feedback or saying that the test
will reveal their strengths and weaknesses also amplifies threat
o When a test is very important, no additional cues necessary such as the SATs, GREs
o Number of whites, men or majority members in a room when conducting a test impacts
performance of minorities and marginalized groups
o In addition, the person administering the test also has an impact
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