African-Americans and high blood pressure: The Role of stereotype threat

This experiment assessed the effect of stereotype threat on arterial blood pressure. Black and White undergraduates were asked to complete a test supposedly designed to assess intelligence under one of two conditions. In one condition, a White professor discussed the debate regarding racial bias in standardized tests and indicated that the test items here were part of an attempt to develop a new intelligence test (stereotype threat for Blacks). In a second condition, a Black professor also discussed racial bias in testing, but indicated that the items were from a test that had already been shown to be culturally unbiased (control). Black students in the condition designed to increase stereotype threat showed significantly elevated blood pressure, and the increase in blood pressure persisting up to 20 minutes beyond the testing session. These results show that physiological arousal is one consequence of stereotype threat and they are suggestive that repeated exposure to stereotype threat might contribute to the documented higher incidence of hypertension in the African-American community.

Blascovich, J., Spencer, S. J., Quinn, D. M., & Steele, C. M. (2001). African-Americans and high blood pressure: The Role of stereotype threat. Psychological Science, 12, 225-229.

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