Experiments Aim to Ease Effects of ‘Stereotype Threat’
Stanford University psychologist Claude M. Steele made headlines in 1995 with a study that introduced the phrase “stereotype threat” into the national lexicon. Put simply, it’s the idea that people tend to underperform when confronted with situations that might confirm negative stereotypes about their social group.
Mr. Steele’s original research involved black college students whose test performance faltered when they were told they were taking an exam that would measure intellectual ability. But the effect has since been documented in more than 200 studies involving all sorts of situations.
Scholars have found evidence of “stereotype threat” occurring, for example, among elementary school girls taking mathematics tests, elderly people given a memory test, and white men being assessed on athletic ability. Even something as subtle as asking students to indicate their race or gender on a test form can trigger the phenomenon, some of...
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