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PSYC12H3 (298)
Chapter 2

Stereotype Threat -Chap2.docx

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Michael Inzlicht

CHAPTER 2: THE ROLE OF SITUATIONAL CUES IN SIGNALING AND MAINTAINING STEREOTYPE THREAT  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 setting  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 abound  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 o  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 o  Women remembered more detail of the conference video, faster heartbeats, sweatier palms, the cue focused women’s attention on their broader social environment o  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 1 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) o  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 performances  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 tasks 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) 2  Results  relative to the neutral ads, stereotypic ads activated gender stereotypes and reduced women’s inclinations to occupy leadership roles   Moreover, stereotypic commercials depressed women’s subsequent performance on a non- diagnostic math test, whereas men and women who watched the counterstereotypic commercials performed equally well   Women exposed to the stereotypic commercials even indicated less interest in pursuing quantitative domains as a career, preferring instead to apply their skills to verbal domains in which the potential for gender stereotyping is reduced  Another study – reveals that other people’s behavior can also trigger stereotype threat o Male confederates either did or did not display certain behavioral cues to their female partners – scanning their female conversation partner’s body, showing confident and dominant facial expressions and displaying open body postures o  Found that confederates sexist behaviors were enough to disrupt the performance of even highly skilled female engineering major on a test o Women who interacted with the sexist confederate cognitively suppressed concerns about gender stereotypes in anticipation of their test performance
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