The effect of stereotype threat on women's mathematical performance and motivation
thesisposted 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.