What is Stereotype Threat?

To start things off on a slightly unrelated note; history is being made today on this modest little blog. A post will contain information from sources that deviate from the great Wikipedia. Of course, this website is not simply about Wikipedia; but about using the Internet to learn about all sorts of fascinating things that we would otherwise not know about!

The question is “How Dangerous are Stereotypes” and the resulting answer may be surprising. We were told from a young age to believe that “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me”. New research (including a recent study coming from the University of British Columbia) shows us how wrong we were.

The three-year study at the University of British Columbia involved 135 women taking challenging math tests similar to those used for graduate school entrance exams.
Before they were given the test, the women were required to read one of four essays - three of them dealing with gender difference in math. One essay argued there was no difference, a second argued the difference was genetic and a third said the difference was the result of social construction and the way girls were taught in elementary school. The fourth essay covered the subject of women in art.
Research has shown that simply reminding a person that he or she falls into some stereotyped category can change the person's performance, in what is known as a stereotype threat.

Unbelievably, stereotypes are so strong that even members of the group being judged start to believe the hype and become self-fulfilling prophecies.
There has been discussion as to whether stereotype threats curtail the results of minorities on the SATs and other standardized tests. An interview with Claude Steele, a professor at Stanford who was a leading researcher in the area of stereotype threats can be found here. An excellent discussion regarding Mr. Steele’s study and the issues which question the results of his research can be found here.
You always have to hear both sides of a debate!
I believe that this new study out of the University of British Columbia sheds more light onto the effects of stereotype threats, but more research must be done. Regardless, this is an unbelievably interesting field of study and I will be following new developments and dutifully reporting on them for you right here!

MSN Technology article regarding Stereotype Threat Study regarding Women and Math

Homepage of Ilan Dar Nimrod, coauthor of the study.

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posted by mikeyarmo @ 7:45 PM,


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