Battling doubt by avoiding practice: The Effect of stereotype threat on self-handicapping in white athletes
Stereotype threat can lead individuals to reduce their effort or preparation even though doing so might harm performance, a phenomenon known as "self-handicapping." In Experiment 1, White college students were asked to complete a task based on golf that was described either as reflecting "factors correlated with natural athletic ability" (high stereotype threat) or "factors correlated with general sports performance" (low stereotype threat). Before completing the task, students were allowed to practice as long as they liked. Students who identified highly with sports practiced significantly less in the high threat compared with the low threat condition. Students who did not identify with sports showed equivalent levels of practice in the two stereotype threat conditions. In Experiment 2, White and Hispanic undergraduates were introduced to the golf task using the high stereotype threat manipulation from Experiment 1, which was assumed to create stereotype threat for Whites but not for Hispanics. In fact, Whites showed a similar effect as in Experiment 1, practicing less when they identified with sports than when they did not. Hispanics, in contrast, did not differ in their degree of practice based on sports identification level. These results show that one consequence of stereotype threat can be reduced preparation and effort. It is believed that such "self-handicapping" can offer psychological protection by providing an a priori explanation for failure even while undermining preparation.