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The individuals may not be able to control their emotions appropriately. Such factors as stress, the feeling of happiness and other similar emotions might negatively influence their performance and induce instances of arousal. (O’Brien & Crandall, 2003)
The study on the perception of stereotype threat on women’s test scores is conducted in a correlative manner. In test taking, there has been noted quite a large difference between the general performance of test scores in regards to racial and gender differences.
The study was conducted to show that arousal during test taking situations accounts for these differences rather than any biological factor, and arousal from stereotype threat is suggested to account for these differences. The stereotype threat was concluded to previously have an effect on the test scores, but there was no actively defined function.
In the end, arousal turned out to be this factor. (O’Brien & Crandall, 2003)
Independent and predictor variables are used throughout the study. The variables used in the study were gender, difficulty of the tests, and the perception of stereotype threat. For independent variables, both males and females were tested across various ethnicities; tests were varied and divided into simple, fairly easy, and difficult ones, as well as tests of expected results versus the tests of perceived stereotypical results.
The predictor variable which was used in the experiment was of the stereotype threat.
Operational Definition of Variables
Stereotype threat was used in the current study. The operational definition of stereotype threat was of perceived implications of performance in tests along with stereotypical lines.
Specifically, the stereotype which was implemented consisted in the fact that generally men do and perform better on mathematics tests than women actually do. A person feels threatened when stereotype threats are present because they are afraid that they will end up demonstrating these negative character traits. (O’Brien & Crandall, 2003).
In other words, it can be emphasized that as opposed to any sort of biological factor playing into test taking ability, social factors are in fact the main cause. More specifically, the desire not to be unfairly judged causes the anxiety. The threat of negative perceptions cause the negative perceptions to exist in the first place.
Arousal was used as well. The effect of arousal is that difficult tasks become more difficult to manage and handle and, therefore, they show poor results while testing while simpler tasks are being improved upon. (O’Brien & Crandall, 2003).
The main hypothesis of the study was to show that the active component in stereotype threat was an increase in arousal. Also, because arousal creates difficulty in performing difficult tasks, test scores were hypothesized to drop when stereotype threat was indicated (O’Brien & Crandall, 2003).
The results of the data were that the implication of stereotype threat did in fact negatively affect the test scores on the difficult tests and caused an increase in the scores of the easier one. When the subjects took the tests without any implication that results fell along stereotypical lines, both men and women performed comparably.
A conclusion that can be drawn from this study is that teachers who are administering tests should assure students that matters of biology, such as gender or ethnicity, do not play an active roll, and that a woman performing poorly in mathematics test is more than likely plays into self-fulfilling prophecies; if you think that you will do poorly on a difficult test, the arousal caused by your nervousness is likely to cause you to receive poor results on the test, as opposed to any inherent problems.
Confidence in test taking is a highly important factor in the success of the test-takers.
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Of course, one possible problem would be to stress out that there are no biological factors into play. By drawing attention to this fact, the test-takers could still cause themselves arousal because they have heard far too many times about doing poorly on a test.
It’s more of a matter of overcompensating; be stressing intensely to the test-takers that there are no reasons for them to do poorly on a test, the test-takers might then internalize their fears of testing poorly and that there is now only something inherently wrong with them.
For anything positive to be accomplished through the use of the results of this study, a careful plan must be implemented in order to assuage fears that biology will play its significant role for the test results without causing any stress to the students who believe that there would only be an individualized problem of people who regularly have difficulty in test taking. (O’Brien & Crandall, 2003)
The study took into consideration one possible problem. It was necessary to show that students didn’t simply do better or worse on these tests due to their ability to answer more questions on the simple tests and thus experienced fewer problems on the harder tests.
Through measuring the degree to which the results varied, they were able to show that it was not simply the matter of one’s ability to answer more or fewer questions depending on the test. (O’Brien & Crandall, 2003)
However, the study takes a few ideas for granted. In the tests that were administered, there was a specific implication of the existence of a stereotype threat. But can we really go ahead and then assume that the implication of stereotype threats is simply “in the air” as suggested in the study seems to be taking too much for granted.
A female teacher might favor the female students in a class, or vice versa, and a legitimate prejudice might come into play as the results of the tests. Also, different people have different test-taking and studying strategies, and various classrooms might be more focused towards and on one learning style over another.
Furthermore, the ages of the test-takers should be varied, and so a longitudinal study could demonstrate the extent to which these stereotype become learned by the test-takers. Also, there would need to be studies done in different cultures to see if any stereotype from one separate culture can affect the test-takers of an absolutely different culture. (O’Brien & Crandall, 2003).
There are further factors which would increase or decrease a students’ arousal. The amount of time studied would be increased or decreased accordingly. Also, this study focused on mathematics tests. Different subjects require different approaches to test-taking.
Another study could focus on the work a student performs in a different environment, for example, similar to the one of taking an essay home to work on. It will surely students to relax however will not let arousal overwhelm them.
O’Brien, L., & Crandall C. (2003). Stereotype threat and arousal: Effects on women’s math performances. Arizona: Pers Soc Psych.