This paper reports the results from two studies
examining the effects of stereotype threat on problem
solving, focusing on the stereotype of male superiority
in mathematical ability. Experiment 1 focused on the performance
of male and female students on mathematical word
problems. When problems were presented in a verbal
format, males outperformed females. When the word
problems were presented in their basic numeric form,
however, performance was equivalent. In Experiment
2, male and female students attempted to solve the same
difficult math problems but did so either in standard
conditions (where there exists a stereotype of male
superiority in math) or a control condition where,
participants were told, "men and women perform equally
well on these problems." Problemsolving strategies were
assessed by having students speak aloud and take notes
as they attempted to answer math problems. Women
were less effective than men at formulating strategies
but only in the standard (i.e., stereotype threat)
condition. These results suggest that individuals
operating under stereotype threat can experience
difficulty formulating and utilizing taskrelevant
cognitions that assist in solving problems.
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