Stereotype Threat and Women's Math Performance

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Abstract:

When women perform math, unlike men, they risk being judged by the negative stereotype that women have weaker math ability. We call this predicamentstereotype threatand hypothesize that the apprehension it causes may disrupt women's math performance. In Study 1 we demonstrated that the pattern observed in the literature that women underperform on difficult (but not easy) math tests was observed among a highly selected sample of men and women. In Study 2 we demonstrated that this difference in performance could be eliminated when we lowered stereotype threat by describing the test as not producing gender differences. However, when the test was described as producing gender differences and stereotype threat was high, women performed substantially worse than equally qualified men did. A third experiment replicated this finding with a less highly selected population and explored the mediation of the effect. The implication that stereotype threat may underlie gender differences in advanced math performance, even those that have been attributed to genetically rooted sex differences, is discussed.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.0000/014186199252336

Affiliations: 1: University of Waterloo 2: Stanford University 3: University of Michigan

Publication date: January 1, 1999

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