Different groups, different threats: A multi-threat approach to the experience of stereotype threats

Two studies explored how stereotype threat is experienced in various groups, examining whether distinct forms of stereotype threat might arise in different groups (c.f., the Multi-Threat Framework; Shapiro & Neuberg, 2007). Particular focus was placed on groups that typically elicit low levels stereotype endorsement (e.g., religion, race/ethnicity, congenital blindness) or typically involve low levels of group identification (e.g., mental illness, obesity, blindness later in life). It was hypothesized that groups varying along these dimensions will experience different levels of self-concept threat (the fear of seeing oneself as possessing a stereotyped, negative trait), group-concept threat (fear of seeing ones group as possessing a stereotyped, negative trait), own-reputation threat (fear of others seeing oneself as possessing a stereotyped, negative trait), and group-reputation threat (fear of others seeing ones group as possessing a stereotyped, negative trait). A pilot study examined how individuals who identify with a stigmatized race/ethnicity (N = 41), religion (N = 65), mental illness (N = 25), or weight (N = 17) groups differed in the degree they believed their group was stereotyped by others and the strength of their group identities. Participants who considered their race/ethnicity or religion endorsed higher levels of group identification that those who considered being overweight or having a mental illness. Those who considered their race/ethnicity or religion also reported less stereotype endorsement than those who considered their mental illness or weight. Study 1 was then conducted with individuals who identify a characteristic they have that is negatively stereotyped, producing self-identifications based on race/ethnicity (N = 68), mental illness (N = 73), religion (N = 63), and weight (N = 34). Measures of self-concept, group-concept, own-reputation, and group-reputation threat were then collected. Results showed that members of groups where identification tends to be low (mental illness, weight) reported lower levels of group-concept threat and group-reputation threat than self-focused threats. In contrast, and as predicted, members of groups where stereotyping tends to be low (race/ethnicity, religion) reported more fewer self-concept and group-concept threats compared with reputation threats. Study 2 focused on ingroup versus outgroups as sources of stereotype threats among blind individuals (N = 250). These participants, who were presumed to have relatively low levels of self-stereotyping due to the general inaccuracy of stereotypes of the blind (e.g., that blind individuals cannot accomplish mundane tasks independently), were expected to show low levels of both self- and group-concept threats when considering interactions with sighted (outgroup) or blind (ingroup) individuals. However, group identification was expected to differ for individuals who were congenitally blind versus individuals who developed blindness during the lifespan. Participants who were low in stereotype endorsement (congenital blindness) reported lower levels of the stereotype threats from the self or ingroups compared with outgroups. In contrast, participants who were low group identification (later blindness) reported fewer group-as-target and ingroup-as-source stereotype threats (stereotype threats requiring group identification). Overall, these findings contribute to the idea of multiple stereotype threats and argue that these can vary as a function of group identification and stereotype endorsement.

Shapiro, J.R. (2011). Different groups, different threats: A multi-threat approach to the experience of stereotype threats. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 37(4), 464-480.

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