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Chapter 3

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Dwayne Pare

CHAPTER 3: An Integration of Processes that underlie stereotype threat How is it that being surrounded by male test-takers can lead women to do worse on a math test? Why does the mere knowledge that a task will be used to measure intelligence impair the performance of black but not white college students?  Those who show performance decrements when they are negatively stereotypes also report feeling more anxious, more concern about being evaluated negatively or lower expectations for how they would do  Some speculation suggests that stereotype threat effects weren’t due to threat at all, rather it was argued that situations can prime negative stereotypes that individuals even those who are not the target of the stereotype then automatically assimilate into their behavior  Both anxiety and negative stereotype activation are overly simplistic explanations for stereotype threat  It’s not just the case that individuals feel anxious when they are stereotypes and that’s why they underperform  It’s not just the case that stereotypes are activated and automatically induce stereotype consistent behavior  It involved both cognitive and affective components and engages both automatic and controlled processes STEREOTYPE THREAT 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  Blacks anticipating having their intelligence assessed report less liking for stereotypically black music and sports and women maoring in math and science disciplines report dressing behaving in les feminine ways  Focus on preventing any form of stereotype confirmation doesn’t simply affect behavioral preferences, it also prompts more subtle changes in how one processes info at both an automatic and a controlled level  Shifts in processing have important implications for performance that help us understand why negative stereotypes can have such pernicious effects for those who are targeted by them  Situations of stereotype thret cue physiological responses and cognitive, neural and affective mechanisms AUTOMATIC ACTIVATION OF THREAT  Stereotype threat has an ability to affect performance without a person’s conscious awareness of the stereotype having been activated  Stereotype threat can be acutely experienced in a very conscious way, such awareness is not always necessary  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 person’s explicit goals and intentions  Situations that cue stereotype threat activate a schema of that stereotype  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 rice, rock or rich  A cue as simple as the way a task is decribed can bring the stereotype to mind  Activating the stereotype might lead to stereotype threat only to the exten that it cues an imbalance between three relvant propositions: o I am a member of group G, group G is expected to do poorly at domain D, but I do well at domain D  The logical inconsistency among these propositions that’s what actually constitutes stereotype threat CHECK FIGURE 3.1**  Implies that stereotype threat will be experienced most strongly in those situations and for those individuals most likely to activate all 3 ideas simultaneously  The cognitive imbalance elicits downstream conseuqnces  Humans have a motive for cognitive consistency, the immediate reaction is a sense of uncertainty and self-doubt since one clear resolution to imbalance is to activate a more negative association between oneself and the domain  Once doubt has been activated even if outside of awareness it can color the interpretation of one’s experience in ways that disrupt cognitive abilities  Uncertainty is not an end state, but phenomenological driver of additional processing aimed at resolving the inconsistency of one’s thought processes  Situations of stereotype threat raise competing possible outcomes o I could do poorly as the stereotype predicts or I could do well consistent with my goals and past experience o One’s attention becomes focused on cues that might provide evidence for or against either alternative  b/c the underlying goal is to avoid confirmation of the stereotype, one’s attention is likely to be oversensitive in its detection of any sign that could indicate that unwanted outcome  cues that may be otherwise innocuous such as feeling anxious during an interview or making a simple arithmetic error while solving math problems can be overinterpreted as a sign of failure Experiment:  patterns of brain activity were assessed in minority college students who thought that their intelligence was being assessed using neurological measurements  researchers were interested in measuring activity in anterior cingulated cortex by analyzing error related negativity observed as a negative deflection in an event related potential occurring 50-100ms after making an incorrect response  individuals show larger ERNs to errors when they are motivated to avoid mistakes or when they are being evaluated Results:  minority college students who were invested in doing well academically exhibited greater vigilance, larger ERNs to errors they made during a simple response time task when they believed that their intelligence was being assessed compared to when the task was described neutrally  people become more vigilant to signs of threat in their environment and to their own internal experience Experiment  women expecting to take a difficult math test as opposed to a more neutrally described problem solving task exhibited an automatic attentional shift toward anxiety-related words, betraying the emotional state they were likely experiencing at the time  situations 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’s stereotyped to do poorly  this cognitive inconsistency triggers certain automatic effects including a sense of uncertainty and increased vigilance toward cues that help one to deted with the goal of avoiding behavior that could confirm the stereotype EXPLICIT EFFORTS TO MANAGE THE SITUATION AND ONE’S RESPONSE  stereotype threat can affect our thoughts and behavior via automatic processes that run outside conscious awareness  the automatic processes that negative self-relevant set in motion are accompanied by a number of controlled processes that can affect performance for the worse, but sometimes the better INCREASED EFFORT AT THE TASK  stereotype threat theory increases one’s motivation to disconfirm the stereotype  increased effort is not a controlled or explicit process  when people 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  one’s dominant response is not always the best response to achieve success  performance will be enhanced if the task is one that relies on a cognitively simple or well-learned thought process or behavior  performance will be impaired when the task is more cognitively challenging  stereotype threat increases arousal in a way that can facilitate a dominant response of name writing in an automatic way  jamieson and harkins’ mere effort account expands upon this idea of an automatic activation of a prepotent response to suggest that stereotype threat also increases one’s efforts to counter that response when it’s identified as an error- efforts that are likely to be more explicit and controlled in nature  employed an antisaccade task in which people try to inhibit an automatic tendency to look toward or saccade to a stimulus cue that flashes to the left or right of a central fixation point on a computer screen  on antisaccade trials, participants 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  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  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 o threat increases a prepotent response pattern  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 o this corrective response pattern stemming from their enhanced motivation to do well relies on a more controlled mode of processing, given that it was eliminated by giving women an additional cognitive load in one study  stereotype threat enhances one’s motivation to do well, but effort is not purely a function of controlled processing  arousal or increased drive cues prepotent responses In an automatic way  when errors are identified, motivation to disconfirm the stereotype can cue more controlled attempts to correct one’s mistake DECREASED WORKING MEMORY  paradox: stereotype threat can simultaneously increase motivation while decreasing performance when one is performing a task that requires mental manipulation of complex info  women under thrat did worse than those who were not threatened on a difficult name writing task – write their name backwards as many times in 20s  performance is impaired on these kinds of tasks b/c stereotype threat taxes working memory capacity  working memory is short term memory involved in control, regulation and active maintenance of a limited amount of into with immediate relevance to the task at hand  allows one to focus attention on info relevant to that task while inhibiting other irrelevant or distracting cues  b/c working memory is intregral to performance on sustained, effortful and complex processing tasks, performance on such tasks will suffer if one’s working memory resources are temporarily depleted or used for another purpose experiment:  women ompleted a working memory task and a difficult math task under control conditions or following activation of a stereotype regarding gender differences in quatitative ability  women in stereotype threat condition showed reduced working memory capacity and poorer math test performance  working memory capacity mediated link between stereotype threat and poorer math performance supporting a causal relationship  individuals under threat are mentally overloaded and cognitively depleted  Baddeley’s multicomponent model o Domain-general central executive controls and coordinates the info active in working memory o Some of the info is represented and maintained in domain-specific short term stores such as the phonological loop for acoustic/verbal info and the visual- spatial sketchpad for visual images o Multimodal episodic buffer serves to bind info from the phonological loop, the visual-spatial sketchpad and long-term memory into a unitary episodic representation THE DEPLETING EFFECTS OF TASK RUMINATIONS  Working memory can be impaired when one is targeted by negative stereotypes by saturating central executive and phonological loop resources with internal worries about one’s performance  Stereotype threat is accompanies by explicit and verbalizable concerns about how one will be perceived, doubts about one’s ability and thoughts about the stereotype  Women performing difficult math problems after being told that gender differences in math exist had more negative math related thoughts and performed more poorly than did women who did not receive this info o Task worries partially mediated their impaired performance  Signs of stereotype threat should occur most strongly for tasks that rely on verbal working memory resources but not on similar problems more similar in nature  Thoughts of doubt ma be detrimental to working memory when they occur in the presence of general arousal or anxiety  Stereotype threat automatically cues a sense of self-uncertainty stemming from an imbalanced set of thought processes activated in situations of threat  Sense of uncertainty elicits more controlled processes aimed at interpreting and ruminating about one’s performance  Feeling anxious or aroused in a performance situation could be seen as understandable to sustain attention and engagement, if interpreted in light of self doubt, that arousal is translated into the sort of worry likely to consume the phonological loop and deplete working memory  Working memory defecits under stereotype threat are greatest for those who are most ancious but only if primed with thoughts of doubt  Anxious arousal actually predicted better working memory under stereotyp
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