New Article: Stereotyping and Educational Performance

Posted by on June 2, 2009

New insight on females and ‘math phobia’: overcoming ‘stereotype threat’

A new study shows that when women are aware of both negative and positive stereotypes related to performance, they identify more closely with the positive stereotype, according to Science Daily. The research by cognitive scientists at Indiana University pertains specifically to women and math ability, but has broad implications for other groups affected by “stereotype threat.” While studies — including this one — have shown that women perform worse on mathematical tasks if made aware of the stereotype that women are weaker at math than men, this is the first study to examine the influence of concurrent and competing stereotypes. The study also demonstrates how negative stereotypes encroach on working memory, leaving less brainpower for the mathematical task at hand. Positive stereotypes had no such effect, however, and even when coupled with the negative stereotype, erased its drain on working memory. “This research shows that because people are members of multiple social groups that often have contradictory performance stereotypes (for example, Asian females in the domain of math), making them aware of both a positive group stereotype and a negative stereotype eliminates the threat and underperformance that is usually seen when they dwell only on their membership in a negatively stereotyped group,” said Professor Robert Rydell, a lead author of the study.

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