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Chapter 3

Stereotype Threat-Chap3.docx

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Michael Inzlicht

CHAPTER 3: AN INTEGRATION OF PROCESSES THAT UNDERLIE STEREOTYPE THREAT  Summary of how situation of stereotype threat set in motion both automatic processes that activate a sense of uncertainty and cue increased vigilance toward the situation, one’s performance and oneself; as well as controlled processes aimed at interpreting and regulating the resulting negative thoughts and feelings that the negative stereotype can induce  By articulating the integration of these component cognitive and emotional processes, we are then 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 the tools they need to better cope with the threat  Both anxiety and negative stereotype activation are overly simplistic explanations for stereotype threat  Involves both cognitive and affective components and engages both automatic and controlled processes  Schmader, Johns and Forbes (2008)  outlined an integration of processes that underlie stereotype threat  This chapter summarizes some of what we know about the ways in which stereotypes threat reduces performance by focusing specifically on articulating the automatic and controlled effects stemming from the experience of being targeted by negative stereotypes Stereotype Threat is What Stereotype Threat Does  Stereotype Threat – concern that one might inadvertently confirm an unwanted belief about one’s group  Those who experience stereotype threat have a motivation to avoid enacting any behavior 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 woman majoring in math and science disciplines report dressing and behaving in less feminine ways Automatic Activation of Threat  Stereotype threat has its ability to affect performance without a person’s conscious awareness of the stereotype having been activated  Rather, many of the processes instigated by being the target of negative stereotypes happen automatically, outside of conscious awareness, and result in outcomes in direct opposition to the person’s explicit goals and intentions  First, situations that cue stereotype threat activate a schema of that stereotype o Steele and Aronson (1995)  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 reasonable alternatives like RICE, ROCK or RICH o As Schamader et al (2008) contend, it is the logical inconsistency among these propositions that is what actually constitutes stereotype threat o Implies that stereotype threat will be experienced most strongly in those situations and for those individuals most likely to activate all three ideas simultaneously o Humans have a fundamental motive for cognitive consistency, the immediate reaction in a sense of uncertainty and self- doubt since one clear resolution to the imbalance is to activate a more negative association b/w oneself and the domain o Uncertainty is a phenomenological driver of additional processing aimed at resolving the inconsistency of one’s thought processes o As a result, situations of stereotype threat raise competing possible outcomes, and one’s attention becomes focused on cues that might provide evidence for or against either alternative o Cues that might be otherwise innocuous, such as feeling anxious during an interview or making a simple arithmetic error while solving math problems, can be over interpreted as a sign of failure  Evidence for this increased vigilance for negative cues comes from a recent study by Forbes, Schmader and Allen o Pattern of brain activity were assessed in minority college students who thought that their intelligence was being assess using neurological measurements o Measured activity in the anterior Cingulate cortex (ACC) by analyzing error related negativity (ERN)  Past research confirmed that individuals show larger ERNs to errors when they are particularly motivated to avoid mistakes or when they are being evaluated  Results revealed that minority college students who are invested in doing well academically exhibited greater vigilance (i.e. larger ERNS) to the errors they made during 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 as well as their own internal experiences o E.g. women expecting to take a difficult math test exhibited an automatic Attentional shift toward anxiety-related words – betraying the emotional state they were likely experiencing at the time  In sum, situation of stereotype threat bring to mind thoughts about one’s relation to a valued domain that conflict with one’s relation to a valued group that is stereotyped to do poorly  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, behavior that could confirm the stereotype EXPLICIT EFFORTS TO MANAGE THE SITUATION AND ONE’S RESPONSE  The automatic processes that negative self-relevant stereotypes set in motion are accompanied by a number of controlled processes that can, in turn, affect performance – often for the worse but sometimes, even for the better Increased Effort at the Task  A core tenet of stereotype threat theory is that it increase one’s motivation to disconfirm the stereotype  However increased effort is not purely a controlled or explicit process o Jamieson and Harkins – articulate the idea that their mere effort account of stereotype threat  From this perspective, when ppl 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  Problem is that the one dominant response is not always the best response to achieve success  Performance will be enhanced if the tasks is one that relies on a cognitively simple or well- learned thought process or behavior and impaired when task is more cognitively challenging o Research has uncovered evidence that stereotype threat increases arousal in a way that can facilitate a dominant response  Ben-Zeev, Fein and Inzlicht  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 test  presumably, the increased arousal due to stereotype threat facilitated a dominant response of name writing in an automatic way  Jamieson and Harkins suggest that stereotype threat also increases one’s efforts to counter that response when it is identified as an error – efforts that are likely to be explicit and controlled in nature o Employed an antisaccade task in which people try to inhibit an automatic tendency to look toward, or saccade to, a stimulus cues that flashes to the left or the right of a central fixation point on a computer screen o On antisaccade trials, participants are explicitly instructed to look away from this cue and toward the opposite side of the screen, where a target that they have to identify will briefly appear o To be successful at this identification task, individuals must inhibit their prepotent saccade to the cue or at least quickly correct for an automatic saccade in order to see and identify the target before it disappears from the screen o Results:   Women who were told the task was related to visuospatial and math ability were more likely to saccade toward the distracting cue on trials in which they needed to inhibit this reflex, a result that is consistent with the idea that threat increases a prepotent response pattern   Also demonstrated that women under stereotype threat were faster to launch a corrective saccade – to correct their mistake by reversing their gaze direction in time to identify the target on the opposite side of the screen  This corrective response pattern, likely stemming from their enhanced motivation to do well, seems to rely on a more controlled mode of processing, given that it was eliminated by giving women an additional cognitive load in one study o In sum, stereotype threat enhances one’s motivation to do well, but effort is not purely a function of controlled processing o Arousal and increased drive cues prepotent responses in a fairly automatic way – but when errors are identified, the motivation to disconfirm the stereotype can cue more controlled attempts to correct one’s mistake Decreased Working Memory  Ben-Zeev and colleagues (2005)  found that, in contrast to an easy name writing task, women under threat did worse than those who were not threatened on a difficult name writing task (in which ppl were asked to write their name backwards as many times as they could for 20 secs)  Several researcher proposed that performance is impaired on these kinds of tasks b/c stereotype thre
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