Coping sense of humor reduces effects of stereotype threat on women's math performance

Two correlational studies assessed the buffering role of coping sense of humor in stereotype threat. In Experiment 1, men and women undergraduates completed the Coping Humor Scale (CHS), a measure designed to assess the use of humor as a coping strategy for dealing with stressful situations, and then answered two questions about how well they typically perform on math and verbal sections of standardized tests. For women, CHS scores were correlated with estimates of their math, but not their verbal, test performance. Women with higher levels of coping humor reported performing more positively on math tests. For men, CHS scores were not significantly correlated with reported test performance. In Experiment 2, women completed the CHS then were asked to complete a math test that reflected "people's mathematics ability and limitations" and typically reflected gender differences (stereotype threat for women) or that focused on assessing problem-solving processes for which there are no gender differences (no stereotype threat). In the stereotype threat condition, women high in CHS performed better than women low in CHS. There was no effect of CHS under low stereotype threat. Mediational analyses suggested that a coping sense of humor improved performance under stereotype threat by reducing the anxiety typically produced in such circumstances. These studies show that individuals with a coping sense of humor are less likely to manifest the typical consequences of stereotype threat.

Ford, T. E., Ferguson, M. A., Brooks, J. L., & Hagadone, K. M. (2004). Coping sense of humor reduces effects of stereotype threat on women's math performance. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 30, 643-653.