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Marx & Stapel, 2006b

These studies showed the different consequences of group priming (highlighting a social category) and stereotype threat (highlighting a social identity). Whereas group priming tends to affect behavior in a stereotype-consistent fashion, stereotype threat appears to affect only individuals whose social identities are tied to the stereotype. According to this view, the relevance of the stereotype to the self is necessary for stereotype threat. Highlighting any stereotype can produce stereotype-consistent behavior, but the stereotype must be self-relevant to create stereotype threat. To test this idea, male and female undergraduates in Experiment 1 completed a math test that was described as "diagnostic of ability" (stereotype threat for women) or "a reasoning exercise" (control). Half also completed a sentence-unscrambling task to prime the trait "dumb" whereas the other half completed the task with filler stimuli designed not to raise the accessibility of intelligence-related constructs. In the stereotype threat conditions, females performed more poorly on the test than did males, consistent with other studies on stereotype threat. In control conditions, however, performance was affected only by whether "dumb" had been primed; performance was lower for both men and women when words denoting lack of intelligence rather than filler stimuli comprised the sentence descrambling task. In Experiment 2, men and women completed a task described either as reflecting "emotional sensitivity" (stereotype threat for men) or as an "emotional exercise" (control). Participants had been primed with either words related to emotional insensitivity or filler words. Results replicated those of Experiment 1, with the gender group under stereotype threat (men) performing more poorly in the diagnostic condition, but with both gender groups performing more poorly when insensitivity had been primed. Experiment 3 involved male and female participants taking a math test under one of four conditions. In one condition, the accessibility of participants’ social self was increased before they took a nonthreatening math test. In a second condition, participants were primed with stereotypic traits before taking a nonthreatening math test. In the third condition, participants completed a test described as diagnostic of math ability, and the fourth condition involved participants taking a nonthreatening test. Underperformance occurred when the stereotype was relevant to the social self (either because the test was diagnostic or because the self was made accessible). However, when the test was nonthreatening and the self was not implicated, participants were affected by the prime, with stereotypic traits producing underperformance. Thus, stereotype threat is separable from priming effects. Stereotype threat is a predicament that arises in situations where one’s performance is linked to a concern about confirming negative stereotypes about one's group.

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