This experiment examined
the moderating role of stigma consciousness on
stereotype threat. Stigma consciousness refers to
differences in the degree that
are chronically aware and conscious of their stigmatized
status. Whereas individuals low in stigma consciousness
typically report that they are unaware of their
stereotyped status when interacting with other people
and assume that stereotypes will not affect them
personally, individuals high in stigma consciousness
expect others to interpret their behavior and to judge
them through the lens of stereotypes. Female
undergraduates who were identified with math and who
differed in stigma consciousness were recruited for
participation in a study involving mathematical ability.
Students were told either that the math test they were
to take was "completely free of gender bias" (control)
or that the test was designed "to explain why men and
women perform so differently on standardized math tests"
(stereotype threat). Women in the latter condition
also indicated their gender before taking the test.
Test performance revealed that only women high in stigma
consciousness were negatively affected by the stereotype
threat manipulation; women high in stigma
consciousness performed more poorly in the stereotype
threat compared with the control condition. In
contrast, women low in stigma consciousness performed
equally well in the stereotype threat and control
conditions. The results suggest that awareness and
expectation that one will be judged in terms of gender
stereotypes produces stronger effects when
stereotype-based performance expectations are invoked.
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