Alleviating women's mathematics stereotype threat through salience of group achievements
Two experiments assessed whether exposing women to other women's accomplishments might alleviate stereotype threat effects. In Experiment 1, male and female undergraduates were told by a female experimenter that they would be assisting in developing new items for the GRE Quantitative test. The experiment mentioned, "some research shows men outperform women in mathematics, but the empirical evidence is mixed." Students were also told that they could complete some additional experiments for extra credit later in the semester, but students were told either that only women could participate in these additional studies because "women produce more reliable and valid data, comprehend the task requirements better, and produce better results in all types of psychological experiments" (women superior) or were told nothing about restrictions on extra credit based on gender (control). Results showed that women in the control condition performed worse on the math task compared with the other conditions. In Experiment 2, a male experimenter told male and female undergraduates that they would participate in two studies, one focusing on "developing stimulus materials for future experiments" and then one involving finding solutions to math problems. In introducing the tasks, the experimenter always mentioned that "some previous research shows men outperform women on math tests, but the empirical evidence is mixed." Students then read and critiqued four biographical essays either about four successful women (positive role models for women) or about four successful corporations (control). Performance on the math task varied as a function of gender and exposure to positive role models. Women in the control condition performed worse than women exposed to positive role models, but men performed no differently in the two conditions. Both studies suggest that performance decrements under gender stereotype threat in mathematics can be reduced by reminding women of other women's accomplishments.