Dynamics of social comparison in counter-stereotypic domains: Stereotype boost, not stereotype threat, for women engineering majors

This paper investigated whether performance impairments associated with stereotype threat occurred for women in counter-stereotypic disciplines (e.g., engineering). In Experiment 1, female undergraduates (N = 39) majoring in either psychology or engineering completed a test involving mathematics. Next, they completed an identity scale and a second math test that was described as comparing the performance of males to females (imposing stereotype threat for psychology majors and possibly for engineering students). Whereas psychology students performed worse on the second math test after the stereotype threat manipulation, engineering students performed better on the second test. Responses to the identity scale showed that female psychology students identified equally with both gender and major, whereas female engineering students particularly identified with their major. Experiment 2 (N = 40) used a nearly identical procedure as Experiment 1, except the identity measure was removed. Results showed a similar pattern to Experiment 1, such that the performance of psychology majors decreased whereas engineers performance improved between test one and test two. These results show that female engineers might experience stereotype lift to the degree that they strongly identify with an academic domain in which there are negative gender stereotypes.

Crisp, R. J., Bache, L. M., & Maitner, A. T. (2009). Dynamics of social comparison in counter-stereotypic domains: Stereotype boost, not stereotype threat, for women engineering majors. Social Influence, 4, 171-184.

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