Macquarie University
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The effect of stereotype threat on women's mathematical performance and motivation

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posted on 2022-03-28, 14:06 authored by Vincent Fogliati
According to stereotype threat theory (STT; Steele & Aronson, 1995), negative stereotypes interfere with the performance of their targets, particularly those who are motivated to disconfirm the relevant stereotype. STT also asserts that stereotype threat can eventually lead to reduced motivation in the relevant domain. This thesis presents three experimental studies, presented across two papers, which contribute to an understanding of the effects of stereotype threat on both performance and motivation. -- The first two studies explored whether women would be protected from stereotype threat under conditions in which they acquiesced to the female-math stereotype. Stereotype acquiescence refers to a process whereby stereotype targets: i) expect their group to perform significantly worse than a relevant out-group, and ii) do not aspire to perform as well as the out-group. Study 1 demonstrated that women (n = 130) low in self-perceived ability were more likely than those high in self-perceived ability to acquiesce to the female-math stereotype, but were paradoxically protected from stereotype threat. Study 2 (n = 154; 108 women and 46 men) showed that women performed worse when informed that there were slight gender differences, than if told that men were considerably mathematically superior. By demonstrating that women who acquiesced to the female-math stereotype were protected from stereotype threat, these studies provide support for STT's assertion that stereotype threat affects the performance of those motivated to disconfirm their stereotyped inferiority. -- Finally, Study 3 (n = 84; 54 women and 30 men) found that stereotype threat led to reductions in women's mathematical performance and also their motivation to improve following negative feedback. Together, these studies contribute to an understanding of the effects of stereotype threat on both performance and motivation, as well as some of the circumstances under which each of these effects of stereotype threat is most likely to occur.


Table of Contents

1. General introduction -- 2. Stereotype threat and stereotype acquiescence: the role of self-perceived ability and perceived group differences -- 3. Stereotype threat reduces motivation to prove: effects of stereotype threat and feedback on intention to improve mathematical ability -- 4. General discussion -- References -- Appendix A. Examples of mathematics test items -- Appendix B. Items from measures used in Chapter 2 (Studies 1 and 2) -- Appendix C. Items from measures used in Chapter 3 -- Appendix D. Means and standard errors for Chapters 2 and 3.


Bibliography: pages 105-124 Submitted in (partial) fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Clinical Psychology / Doctor of Philosophy, Macquarie University, Faculty of Human Sciences, Department of Psychology, 2012.

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis MClinPsych/PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Human Sciences, Department of Psychology

Department, Centre or School

Department of Psychology

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Kay Bussey

Additional Supervisor 1

Ladd Wheeler


Copyright disclaimer: Copyright Vincent Fogliati 2012.




1 online resource (x, 174 pages)

Former Identifiers

mq:30383 2079971