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When Positive Stereotypes Threaten Intellectual Performance: The Psychological Hazards of ‘Model Minority’ Status

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Asian-American women's performance on a test of quantitative skill was studied as a function of whether their Asian, female, or individual identity was salient at the time of testing. In previous research, ethnicity salience was found to result in enhanced math performance among Asian women. However, the investigators relied on a subtle manipulation of ethnicity salience that likely did not invoke concerns about group reputation nor make salient the common cultural stereotypes concerning Asians' mathematical prowess. We induced a focus on ethnic identity in a manner that was likely to make other people's high performance expectations more salient. Under these conditions, ethnicity salience resulted in diminished ability to concentrate, which in turn led to significantly impaired math performance. Thus, although people commonly hold positive stereotypes about Asians' mathematical skills, making these stereotypes salient prior to performance can create the potential for ‘choking’ under the pressure of high expectations.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Northwestern University

Publication date: 2000-09-01

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