Stereotype threat

situational predicament in which people are or feel themselves to be at risk of conforming to stereotypes about their social group

Stereotype threat is the risk of confirming a negative stereotype about a group to which one belongs. Claude Steele introduced this idea in 1995. Stereotype threat may reduce the performance of people who belong to a negatively stereotyped group.[1]

Steele and AronsonEdit

Claude Steele and Joshua Aronson did research for this theory of social psychology. They had African-American and European-American college students take a difficult verbal portion of the Graduate Record Examination. The design was a 2x3 factorial. The factors were the race of the participant (black or white)and the test description (diagnostic of intelligence, non diagnostic, or non diagnostic and challenging). Performance on the test was the dependent variable. 117 male and female participants were recruited from Stanford University. After comparing the results of the three groups, it was found that the differences were not very significant. However, in their second study results were significant.[1]

Supporting studiesEdit

A study on chess players shows that if females are made aware of the stereotype that females are worse at chess than males, they perform worse than the controls.[2] Stone, Lynch, Sjomeling, & Darley did experiments in which white men performed poorly in sports if they are put in the condition that described the task as reflecting natural athletic ability compared to African-Americans. The African-Americans performed worse when the task was described as involving intelligence of the sport.[3] Yeung & von Hippel did an experiment in which two groups of women went through a driving simulation. They told the women in the stereotype threat group that they were investigating why men were better drivers than women. That group twice more likely than the control to hit a pedestrian jaywalker.[4]


Stereotype lift can increase a person's performance on a task when he/she is exposed to a negative stereotype of a group to which he/she does not belong.[5]

Stereotype boost can increase an individual's performance on a task when he/she is exposed to a positive stereotype about his/her group.[6]

Stereotype threat can have a bad effect on people. It has a negative effect on performance. It can also cause individuals to distance themselves from the stereotyped group to which they belonged, or lead them to dis-identify with the group that they experience stereotype threat. For example, a woman sees herself as "not a math person".[7][8]

A simple way to stop these negative consequences is to tell people about stereotype threat.[9]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Steele, Claude M. (1997). "A threat in the air: How stereotypes shape intellectual identity and performance". American Psychologist 52 (6): 613–629
  2. Daisy Grewal (15 April 2014). "Are Girls Bad at Chess?". Scientific American website. Retrieved 26 April 2014.
  5. Walton, G. M.; Cohen, G. L. (2003). "Stereotype lift". Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 39 (5): 456–467. doi:10.1016/S0022-1031(03)00019-2
  6. Shih, M. J.; Pittinsky, T.L.; Ho, G. C. (2012). "Stereotype boost: Positive outcomes from the activation of positive stereotypes". In Inzlicht, M.; Schmader, T. Stereotype Threat: Theory, Process, and Application. Oxford University Press. pp. 141–156. ISBN 0199732442.
  7. Cohen, Geoffrey L.; Garcia, Julio (2008). "Identity, Belonging, and Achievement: A Model, Interventions, Implications". Current Directions in Psychological Science 17 (6): 365–369. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8721.2008.00607.x. ISSN 0963-7214.
  8. Steele, Jennifer; James, Jacquelyn B.; Barnett, Rosalind Chait (2002). "Learning in a Man's World: Examining the Perceptions of Undergraduate Women in Male-Dominated Academic Areas". Psychology of Women Quarterly 26 (1): 46–50. doi:10.1111/1471-6402.00042. ISSN 0361-6843.
  9. Johns M, Schmader T, Martens A (March 2005). "Knowing is half the battle: teaching stereotype threat as a means of improving women's math performance". Psychological Science 16 (3): 175–9. doi:10.1111/j.0956-7976.2005.00799.x. PMID 15733195.