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"I am us": Negative stereotypes as collective threats

Whereas stereotype threat involves an individual's fear that he or she might behave in a manner that confirms a stereotype of one's group, individuals might also show concern about the potential stereotype-confirming acts of other group members. This threat, termed collective threat, arises from the awareness that the poor performance of a single individual in ones group might be viewed as stereotype-confirming and generalized to ones group. A pilot questionnaire study confirmed that Black and Latino students reported more threat from collective threat and from being stereotyped than from stereotype threat. Moreover, only collective threat predicted lower self-esteem. In Experiment 1, Black undergraduates overheard an experimenter tell another Black participant (confederate of the experimenter) that the research was focused on the various factors that affect performance on problems that demand strong reading and verbal abilities, and the confederate reacted by saying, Im so bad at these standardized tests (collective threat). In the control condition, the experimenter said to the confederate that research focused on various factors involved in solving verbal puzzles, and the confederate remarked, Verbal puzzles...I remember these (control). Participants did not complete the test but responded to measures assessing self-esteem, racial stereotype activation, and stereotype distancing (reduced endorsement of stereotypical group activities). The distance between the seat selected by the participant and the confederate was noted. Results showed that the collective threat condition produced lowered self-esteem, more stereotype distancing, lowered racial stereotype activation, and greater physical distancing compared with the control condition. These effects were stronger for those students who moderately rather than highly identified with their racial group. Experiment 2 produced similar effects when a participant expected an ingroup member to perform a stereotype-relevant task, but these effects did not emerge either when an ingroup member was expected to complete a stereotype-irrelevant task (i.e., an art test) or when an outgroup member (i.e., a White student) was challenged with a stereotypical task. In Experiment 3, women were exposed to a control or collective threat manipulation similar to Experiment 1, involving the domain of mathematics. Collective threat produced lower self-esteem, lower efficacy in math, higher gender stereotype activation, greater social distancing, and less imitative behavior. These studies demonstrate that concerns about the performance of an ingroup member on a task that might confirm one's group stereotype can pose a threat to self-worth and produce attempts to distance (both psychologically and physically) the self from the ingroup member.

Cohen, G. L., & Garcia, J. (2005). "I am us": Negative stereotypes as collective threats. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 89, 566-582.
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