An examination of implicitly activated, explicitly activated, and nullified stereotypes on mathematical performance: It's not just a woman's issue

These two studies examined whether the means by which stereotypes are highlighted affect test performance. In Experiment 1, White female undergraduates indicated their degree of identification with math then completed what they were told was a "new math instrument". One third of the participants then completed the math test (implicit stereotype threat). The other students were told that "men are better at mathematics than women...maybe as a result of biological differences" and either that "our own investigations [with this instrument] found similar results" (explicit stereotype threat) or "our results show that there are no gender differences on [this instrument]" (stereotype nullification). After controlling for identification level, performance scores revealed that performance was equal in the implicit stereotype threat and explicit stereotype threat conditions and lower in both conditions compared with the stereotype nullification condition. Experiment 2 used procedures similar to Experiment 1, except that White men were exposed to stereotypes of their poorer performance in mathematics compared with Asians. Test performance effects were similar to Experiment 1, with performance in the explicit and implicit threat conditions equal and lower than in the nullification condition. In addition, students in the nullification condition indicated that they spent more time thinking about particular exam items whereas students in the stereotype threat conditions appeared to focus more on peripheral factors in the testing situation. These studies show that explicit and more subtle instantiations of stereotype threat produce equivalent deficits in performance. Moreover, the fact that students in the nullification condition showed less distractibility is suggestive about the reasons that performance decrements occur under stereotype threat.

Smith, J. L., & White, P. H. (2002). An examination of implicitly activated, explicitly activated, and nullified stereotypes on mathematical performance: It's not just a woman's issue. Sex Roles, 47, 179-191.

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