Deflecting negative self-relevant stereotype activation: The effects of individuation

Two experiments examined individuation processes as a buffer against stereotype threat. In Experiment 1, female undergraduates completed a task that highlighted their gender by presenting them with words on a computer screen related to women (stereotype threat ) or not related to women (control) below the level of conscious awareness. After this manipulation, half the students were asked to indicate their favorite food, movie, book, and hobbies and to list their three best and worst qualities (individuation condition) or answered a series of questions about topics unrelated to the self (non-individuation condition). After these tasks, all students completed a difficult math test. When not individuated, women performed more poorly when gender had been primed, consistent with traditional stereotype threat effects. However, women who had been led to individuate performed better and as well as students who had not been primed with gender. Experiment 2 replicated these effects with a different manipulation of individuation. These studies show that individuation can serve as a buffer against stereotype threat, perhaps because it allows a means for individuals to distance the self from identities linked to the stereotype in question.

Ambady, N., Paik, S. K., Steele, J., Owen-Smith, A., & Mitchell, J. P. (2004). Deflecting negative self-relevant stereotype activation: The effects of individuation. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 40, 401-408.

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