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Stereotype threat confirmation of brainwash?

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posted on Feb, 11 2007 @ 09:45 PM
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Stereotype threat is the fear that one's behavior will confirm an existing stereotype of a group with which one identifies. This fear may in turn lead to an impairment of performance (Aronson, Wilson, & Akert, 2005). Stereotype threat was first articulated and documented by the social psychologists Claude Steele, Joshua Aronson, and Steven Spencer, who have conducted several studies on this topic. In one of these, Steele and Aronson (1995) administered a difficult test known as the Graduate Record Examination to white and African-American students. Half of the each group was told that their ability was being measured, while the other half thought the test was not measuring their ability. The white students performed equally in the two conditions of the experiment. African-Americans, in contrast, performed far worse when they believed their intelligence was being measured, presumably because stereotype threat made them anxious about confirming the stereotype regarding African American IQ. The researchers found that the difference was even more noticeable when race was emphasized.

Stereotype threat has also been found to apply to sex differences in math achievement. A common stereotype is that men have stronger abilities in math than women. When women believed sex differences could be revealed by a math test, the men performed better; if the test was presented as gender fair, the sexes performed equally well (Spencer, Steele, & Quinn, 1999). This can even happen to white males when they feel inferior to another group. In a different experiment, Joshua Aronson and his colleagues (1999) tested the math ability of white males who were highly proficient at math. These males performed far worse when they were led to believe that their scores would be compared to those of Asians, a group stereotypically considered superior in mathematics.

The stereotype threat phenomenon has been confirmed in over one hundred scientific journal articles (Steele, Spencer, & Aronson, 2002). Nonetheless, there has been some controversy regarding the applicability of these experimental studies to the field. Some critics[attribution needed] have charged that the studies cannnot fully explain the black-white achievement gap. Other critics[attribution needed] suggest that stereotype threat cannot account for differences in reaction time, which is a key indicator of general intelligence. There are no known data to bear on these issues, thus they remain empirical questions. In addition to numerous laboratory experiments documenting the effects of stereotype threat on intellectual performance, the theory has generated a good deal of intervention work, some of which has boosted the achievement and test scores of low performing minority students.




 
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