Blatant stereotype threat and womens math performance: Self-handicapping as a strategic means to cope with obtrusive negative performance expectations
This study examined performance on and responses to a math task as a function of stereotype threat. Male and female German high school students who took math as a regular subject were asked to complete a difficult math task under one of two conditions. Half of the students were told that the task tended to produce gender differences with men outperforming women (stereotype threat for girls). The other half of the students were told nothing about gender differences on the task (control). Consistent with previous stereotype threat findings, boys and girls performed equally when gender differences were not mentioned, but girls performed worse under stereotype threat. Girls under stereotype threat were more likely to self-handicap, indicating higher levels of agreement with the statements that they had been "under a high degree of stress lately" and that the test was "tricky or unfair." Moreover, self-handicapping appeared to account for the performance decrements of girls under stereotype threat. Although self-handicapping can protect the self from the consequences of negative performance, it can also undermine motivation and engagement in the domain in which stereotype threat occurs.