There has been an immense concern of the impact of gender and racial stereotyping on the academic performance of individuals stereotyped from these angles. Poor performance of women in comparison to men in some subjects such as mathematics had been attributed to the existing differences, both biological and social, between them and men.
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However, this was before the emergence of the discipline of stereotype threat in 1995. In the current research, it is confirmed that elimination of stereotypes on women’s abilities in mathematics can enhance their performance in mathematics, a subject that has been taken a reserve for men.
Before the development of research in the field of stereotype threats, psychologists coupled with various practitioners in the field of social psychology enormously believed that the differences in performance between boys and girls in intelligence and mathematics tests were related to their sociological and biological differences.
However, emerging researches as from 1990s have shown that the existing differences in social situations can often truncate into the depiction of differences in performance in intelligence and math tests among boys and girls.
These social situations involve the creation of awareness of negative stereotypes especially in a situation encompassing stereotyping of the relevant group domains. The impacts of stereotyping are found as being incredibly pronounced among groups of persons who identify themselves strongly with particular groups and domains (Stone et al, 1999, p.1213).
Why Introduce ST
Claude Steele introduced the topic of ST in the discipline of social psychology in 1995. He defined it interactively as the fear that people have while confirming their negative stereotype characteristic on their individual groups (Steele & Aronson, 1995, p.798). They argue that the reason why women in general coupled with minority groups perform poorly in math is that they have an immense fear of confirming any stereotype associated with them akin to their perceived capabilities.
Apart from the group euphoria, certain personal traits are also associated with ST. These include consciousness of stigmas acerbated by the members of a group that a person identifies himself or herself with, setting high expectations, and hefty investments in personalised domains.
Several studies have confirmed ST as having negative impacts in the performance of women in math. For instance, Spencer et al. (1999) conducted a study on “stereotype threat and women’s math performance” (pp. 4-28). They accomplished this task in three different experiments.
Collectively, the three experiments confirmed that the performance of women in math faces many risks of being judged from the contexts of negative stereotypes that confirm that women are essentially weaker in math (Spencer et al., 1999, p.4). In the first study, they “demonstrated that the pattern observed in the literature that women underperformed on difficult math tests” (Spencer et al., 1999, p.4).
On the other hand, in study 2, they demonstrated that it is possible to reduce the performance differences when elimination of the stereotype that is descriptive of the anticipated performance is done to ensure that gender differences are not reflected. Lastly, their third experiment deployed a lesser portion of the population to explore the mediation effects that are produced in ST.
The results of the experiment indicated that ST related to gender differences capabilities produced differences in performance in math even upon administration of advanced math tests without the elimination of the stereotype domains. From this perspective, the aim of the current study is to investigate whether cognitions of stereotyping on a group in which one belongs to affect the performance of an individual in academics based on his or her gender group’s traditional stereotypes.
Prior learning of stereotype associated with a person’s gender acts as a stereotype lift, which increases stereotype threats, and hence the performance of that individual, in math and intelligence tests.
The methodology used in this lab report is conducting a research on the existing body of literature to help in garnering the data utilised in the discussions of the impacts of cognitions of stereotype threats among people belonging to a particular social group defined by common racial and gender characteristics. This is done by conducting a search of literature on ST by using “stereotype threats among minority groups and women” as the key words. This means that the findings of this research are predominantly dependent on secondary data.
Hence, this methodology introduces some drawbacks such as the absence of primary data, which, upon statistical analysis, could aid in arriving at valid hypothetical inferences that would need further research to clarify on their rigidness in contributing to the incensement of body of knowledge in the field of ST. However, the approach used in this lab report mitigates such a disadvantage by concretising the results of a variety of studies in ST into one paradigm of explaining the impacts of ST on performance in intelligence tests and math.
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Upon conducting a search using the keywords “stereotype threats among minority groups and women”, a variety of data was acquired. Steele and Aronson’s (1995) results on the impacts of emphasis on race on the performance of standardised tests when the white race is emphasised (p.797) form one of the plausible results of this research that help in making inferences of the study.
According to the number of experiments that were conducted by these researchers, emphasis on the white race led to poor performance in the standardised tests among the college freshmen belonging to the black race coupled with sophomores (Steele & Aronson, 1995, p.809). On the other hand, in case no emphasis was made on the white race, the results of their experiments showed that the black people performed much comparably to the white people.
The results also reveal that the scope of ST has broadened to include studying on the consequences of the ST beyond academic performance. For instance, results on the studies conducted by Stone et al. (1999) show that stereotyping could also lead to self-handicapping impacts such as the reduction of practice time (p.1214).
It is also found out that directly consistent to various exposures to an environment characterised by ST, for instance, ST encountered by minorities and women in the environments of academics, can incredibly reduce the manner in which such people value their domain (Steele, 1997, p.616). Stone et al. also found out that individuals prefer refraining from choosing careers that justify their stereotyped traits hence reducing the number of professionals with such domains in certain careers (1999, p.1215).
This leads to social inequality. Other secondary sources also indicate that ST also has the capacity to impact individuals in other domains that are beyond academics among them being sports (Stone et al., 1999, p.1213), performance of women in debates, negotiations (Kray, Galinksy & Thompson, 2002, p.386), and the performance of women in driving (Yeung & von Hippel, 2008, p.667).
ST produces harmful impacts in the performance of Hispanics in academics, as well as to students who come from poor economic backgrounds. This happens especially when ST leads to invoking certain performance anticipations in comparison to some other people who are deemed superior in some group domains.
In case members of a particular group that is stereotyped are informed about the implication of ST on them, it is possible to “buffer their performance on stereotyped-relevant tasks” (Schmader, Johns & Martens, 2005, p.178).
According to the findings of these researchers, despite the fact that the performance of women in comparison to men when diagnostic tests were administered was worse, women who had been taught about the ST were never impaired by cognitions associated with anxieties of their ST. Consequently, prior learning about ST can hike the performance of women in intellectual and math test (Schmader, Johns & Martens, 2005, p.178).
However, this prior learning helps to reinforce the perception that men would perform better in math than women due to the existing differences in their abilities. Now, it is safe to deduce that from Schmader Johns and Marten’s findings, inculcating knowledge of ST among people who are likely to be impacted negatively by the stereotypes threats before the administration of a test may help to improve their performance.
In particular, performance among groups whose abilities to perform in a test are stereotyped is increased by providing a means of arousal externalisation. In this dimension, Schmader, Johns, and Marten’s study confirms, “women’s math performance in the teaching intervention condition tended to increase the more they attributed their anxiety to gender stereotypes” (2005, p.178).
This work confirms Steele (1997) findings that performance of women in math deteriorates whenever they articulate their anxiety experiences with stereotyping their abilities on gender basis (p. 616). Therefore, prior learning through teaching persons on the negative and detrimental impacts of their ST may act as an ample mechanism of dealing with the implications of ST on performance of women in math and intellectual tests.
Activating various stereotype perceptions has the ability to impair performance of person in various stereotyped tasks. The work of Schmader, Forbes, and Johns (2008) provides substantive mechanisms of affirming that ST has the capacity to disrupt the performance of people in three main ways (pp. 336-356).
These are “physiological stress response that directly impairs prefrontal processing, a tendency to actively monitor performance, and efforts to suppress negative thoughts and emotions in the service of self-regulation” (Schmader, Forbes & Johns, 2008, p.336). Additionally, the authors find out that the three mechanisms have the capacity to disrupt tasks whose execution is dependent on the sensory motor performance.
For persons who contend with certain negative stereotypes concerning their abilities, with regard to the results of Schmader, Forbes and John’s study, “ chronic experience of stress, heightened vigilance, self doubt, and emotional suppression can not only impair performance directly but also can lead them to avoid situations where this aversive phenomena reside” (2008, p.352).
In this dimension, a subtle result on impacts of ST on the performance in intellectual test is achieved in that the appeal coupled with strength of any ST perception related to contemplation of either individual or group abilities become possible to harness to facilitate the reduction of the capacity of such situations from truncating into reduced performance.
This means that possessing the knowledge through which stereotypes may alter individual’s behaviours provides proactive mechanisms of helping people to change such behaviours hence reducing the thresholds of ST. The overall capacity for a person to manage stereotypes threats rests on the ability to manipulate the psychological perceptions of that individual on the capacity of the stereotype threats to influence his or her performance.
The results of this study make it indispensable to seek a clear understanding of the situations that are likely to truncate into ST since, upon the elimination of such situations, it is possible to eliminate the social inequalities based on anticipations on certain performance levels of people of different gender, minority group, and or ethnic groups. The condition that has the highest probabilities of producing stereotypes threat is the one that highlights both conditions by replicating self-social associations with particular social categories.
This implies, for instance, that, when women see themselves from the perspective, “they are women, therefore they are not anticipated to performance to a certain degree in math test, and hence the test taken is difficult” (Spencer et al., 1999, p.13), they can never perform to their full potential. This follows because they have already constructed some other negative altitudes about their performance even before attempting the test.
Therefore, it is possible to “undermine performance because of the concerns of the possibility of confirming negative stereotypes about one’s group” (Stone et al., 1999, p.1221). Consequently, based on the results of this study, it sounds plausible to infer that a situation that hikes any group’s stereotype salience has the capacity to hike the probabilities of vulnerabilities to ST.
Consistent with Stelle et al. (2002) findings, upon a thorough introspection of the scholarly works on the consequences of ST, it is arguable, “disengagement can also produce “misidentification” if an individual copes with the long-term threat by avoiding the domain or detaching one’s identity from a domain” (Stelle et al., 2002, p.48).
This is because there is a correlation between self-esteem and academic performance among white and black students. The more the black students perceive themselves as inferior in terms of academic performance apparently because of invoking negative stereotype associated with their ethnicity, the poorer they perform in academics.
When such a situation is replicated based on gender, segregation and seclusion of women may occur especially on career paths deemed as a reserve for men. Hence, undergraduate women pursuing studies in disciplines that are male-dominated will have increased chances of facing ST and discrimination. Consequently, such women have higher probabilities of thinking to change their areas of specialisation in comparisons to women who do not pursue careers that are dominated by men (Steele et al., 2002, p.47).
This means that, in case stereotypes attributes are emphasised in classroom settings, the sense of self-belonging to a particular discipline is disrupted. Therefore, emphasising on stereotypes that women have poor abilities in math performance would result to making them perceive themselves as outcasts in the math community.
Of great paramount to note is that the results of this lab report study reveal that ST may seem likely to be experienced by persons belonging to a particular group than groups having differing characteristics with it. However, it is not accurate to infer that ST is a reserve for members of a group of people that has been stereotyped since time immemorial. Consequently, a stigmatised social identify may surface itself in a number of social situations.
Indeed, the results of studies on impacts people’s identities before and after the administration of tests reveal that performance is deterred when information on a person’s identity is sought first before the test administration. Unfortunately, the standard way of conducting exams such as GRE and SAT is to seek out information about the candidates’ gender identity coupled with race before taking the tests.
Kray, L., Galinksy, A., & Thompson, L. (2002). Reversing the gender gap in negotiations: An exploration of stereotype regeneration. Organisational Behaviour and Human Decision Processes, 87(1), 386-409.
Schmader, T., Forbes, C., & Johns, M. (2008). An integrated process model of stereotype threat effects on performance. Psychological Review, 115(2), 336-356.
Schmader, T., Johns M., & Martens, A. (2005). Knowing Is Half Battle: Teaching Threat As Means of Improving Women’s Math Performance, Psychological Science,16 (3),175-178.
Spencer, S., Steele, C., & Quinn, M. (1999). Stereotype threat and women’s math performance. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 35(4), 4-28.
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Steele, C., & Aronson, J. (1995). Stereotype threat and the intellectual test performance of African-Americans. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69(3), 797-811.
Steele, J., James, B., & Barnett, R. (2002). Learning in a man’s world: Examining the perceptions of undergraduate women in male-dominated academic areas. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 26(2), 46-50.
Stone, J., Lynch, C., Sjomeling, M., & Darley, J. (1999). Stereotype threat effects on black and white athletic performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77(4), 1213-1227.
Yeung, N., & von Hippel, C. (2008). Stereotype threat increases the likelihood that female drivers in a simulator run over jaywalkers. Accident Analysis & Prevention, 40(7), 667-674.