A social impact trend in the effects of role models on alleviating women's mathematics stereotype threat
This study tested the relation between exposure to positive role models and reduction of performance decrements under stereotype threat. Men and women college undergraduates were asked to participate in two studies, one focusing on "developing stimulus materials for future experiments" and one involving finding solutions to math problems. In introducing the tasks, the experimenter always mentioned that "women perform worse than men on math tests." The first task actually allowed some students to read essays describing women who were successful in various fields (a woman architect, lawyer, doctor, or inventor), and students read 0, 1, 2, 3, or 4 essays about successful women. Women performed worse than men when they read no essays about successful women, but there was no significant difference in performance if women read even just one essay about a successful woman. Women's performance did improve as the number of read essays increased, but to a lesser degree with each unit increase. Men's performance was not influenced by the number of essays read. This study shows that exposure to positive role models can attenuate stereotype threat and that the amount of exposure is related to the magnitude of this attenuating effect.