Stereotype threat is the experience of anxiety or concern in a situation where a person has the potential to confirm a negative stereotype about their social group. Since its introduction into the academic literature in 1995, stereotype threat has become one of the most widely studied topics in the field of social psychology. First described by social psychologist Claude Steele and his colleagues, stereotype threat has been shown to reduce the performance of individuals who belong to negatively stereotyped groups. If negative stereotypes are present regarding a specific group, they are likely to become anxious about their performance which may hinder their ability to perform at their maximum level. For example, stereotype threat can lower the intellectual performance of African-Americans taking the SAT reasoning test used for college entrance in the United States, due to the stereotype that African-Americans are less intelligent than other groups.
Stereotype threat is a potential contributing factor to long-standing racial and gender gaps in academic performance. However, it may occur whenever an individual's performance might confirm a negative stereotype. This is because stereotype threat is thought to arise from the particular situation rather than from an individual's personality traits or characteristics. Since most people have at least one social identity which is negatively stereotyped, most people are vulnerable to stereotype threat if they encounter a situation in which the stereotype is relevant. Situational factors that increase stereotype threat can include the difficulty of the task, the belief that the task measures their abilities, and the relevance of the negative stereotype to the task. Individuals show higher degrees of stereotype threat on tasks they wish to perform well on and when they identify strongly with the stereotyped group. These effects are also increased when they expect discrimination due to their identification with negatively stereotyped group. Repeated experiences of stereotype threat can lead to a vicious circle of diminished confidence, poor performance and loss of interest in the relevant area of achievement.
Proponents of stereotype threat have been criticized for exaggerating the importance of stereotype threat as an explanation of real-world performance gaps and misrepresenting evidence as more conclusive than it is.
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Famous quotes containing the words threat and/or stereotype:
“The sickness of our times for me has been just this damn thing that everything has been getting smaller and smaller and less and less important, that the romantic spirit has dried up, that there is no shame today.... Were all getting so mean and small and petty and ridiculous, and we all live under the threat of extermination.”
—Norman Mailer (b. 1923)
“All official institutions of language are repeating machines: school, sports, advertising, popular songs, news, all continually repeat the same structure, the same meaning, often the same words: the stereotype is a political fact, the major figure of ideology.”
—Roland Barthes (19151980)