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Chapter 3


Course Code
Michael Inzlicht

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Chapter 3: An Integration of Processes that Underlie Stereotype Threat
Steel and Aronson’s discovery that performance could be easily manipulated by merely how a task is
described or who is present in the room is astonishing
Many cues in our immediate environment can signal in subtle or obvious ways our cultural fit within that
It is not just that individuals feel anxious when they are stereotype and that is why they underperform and
it is not the case that stereotypes are activated and automatically induce stereotype consistent behavior
Stereotype Treat is What Stereotype Threat Does
Stereotype threat characterizes a concern that one might inadvertently confirm an unwanted belief about
one’s group
As a result those who experience stereotype threat have a motivation to avoid enacting any behavior that
might be seen as stereotypical
Automatic Activation of Threat
Stereotype threat has an ability to affect performance without a person’s conscious awareness of the
stereotype having been activated
o Many happen outside of conscious awareness that is not always necessary
First, situation at that cue stereotype threat activate a scheme of that stereotype
o Black college students were more like to complete word fragment with race rather than rice, rock
or rich indicated a cue as simple as the way it is described can bring the stereotype to mind
Stereotype salience leads to a cognitive imbalance that humans are compelled to rectify so this may this
uncertainty may stimulate increased negative association between oneself and domain
o Women are bad at math, I am woman, I must be bad at math but I’m usually good. So I must
actually be bad? Change the feelings of self-efficacy to compensate for the imbalance of
Uncertainty is not an end state but rather a phenomenological driver of additional processing aimed at
resolving the inconsistency of one’s thought processes
One’s attention may becoming oversensitive to avoid confirmation of stereotype but seemingly innocuous
cues such as feeling anxious or making a simple error may result as an interpretation of sign of failure
Minority college students who were invested in doing well academically exhibited greater vigilance to the
errors they made during a simple response time tasks when they believed that their intelligence was being
assessed compared to when the task was described more neutrally
People become more vigilant on signs of threats in their environment and increased automatic detraction of
errors and bias from others
In sum, stereotype threat situations bring to mind thoughts about one’s relation a valued domain that
conflict with one’s relation to valued group that is stereotyped to do poorly
This cognitive inconsistency triggers certain automatic effects such as a sense of uncertainty and increased
vigilance towards cues that might help one to detect with the goal of avoiding, behavior that could confirm
the stereotype
Explicit Efforts to Manage the Situation and One’s Response
Stereotype threat causes automatic processes to occur but it also sets in motion controlled processes
that can affect performance for the worse but also for the better
Increased Effort at the Task
A core tenet of stereotype threat theory is tis that it increases one’s motivation to disconfirm the stereotype
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Evidence suggests that stereotype threat increases arousal in a way that can facilitate a dominant response
o Women expected to write a math test wrote their name faster = increased arousal due to stereotype
threat facilitated a dominant response of name writing in an automatic way
Stereotype threat also increases one’s effort to counter that response when it is identified as an error -
efforts that are likely to be more explicit and controlled in nature
o Women were asked to look away from a distracting cue to the other side of the screen for a target
o Women who were told that this test was a function of their visuospatial and math ability were
more likely to scare toward the distracting cue on trials in which they needed to inhibit their reflex
indicating the increased threat proponent response pattern
o In addition, these women were also faster to correct this transgression and due to the proper
response quicker than control participants
In sum, stereotype threat enhances one’s motivations to do well but effort is not purely a function of
controlled processing. Arousal or increased drive cues preportent responses in a fairly automatic way but
when errors are identified, the motivation to disconfirms stereotype can cue more controlled attempts to
correct one’s mistake
Decreased Working Memory
Stereotype threat can simultaneously increase motivation while also decrease performance particularly
when one is performing a task that requires the mental manipulation of complex information
o Women under threat did worse on a difficult name writing tasks that those who were not
Stereotype threat taxes working memory capacity
o Working memory can be thought of as a short term memory system that is involved in eh control,
regulation and active maintenance of a limited amount of information with immediate relevance to
the task at hand
o Working memory vital to effortful, sustained and complex processing tasks, performance on such
tasks will suffer if one’s working memory resources are temporarily depleted or used for another
o Example women in the threat condition showed reduced working memory capacity and poorer
math performance relative to the control group
The Depleting Effects of Task Ruminations
Working memory can be impaired when one is tragedy by negative stereotypes and is saturated by central
executive and phonological loop resources with internal worries about one’s performance
Thoughts of doubt might be even more detrimental to working memory when they occur in the presence of
general arousal or anxiety
Tasks that do not rely on phonological resources can still be impaired by stereotype threat
Efforts to Regulate Thoughts and Emotions
Central executive function of suppression of negative thoughts and feeling leads to cognitive depletion and
reduces ability to problem solve
Stereotype threat experience results in ego depletion
o Situational reminders of one’s stigmatized status led minority students expected to take an
intelligence test to perform more poorly on a Stroop interference task
o Women expecting to have their math ability assessed to have greater difficulty squeezing a hang
o These effects point to a general reduction in self-regulatory abilities when one is anticipating
being evaluated through the lens of a stereotype
Rebound effects of thought suppression of negative stereotypes can be mitigated by thinking about
distracting thoughts to replace thoughts about stereotype
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