Linking stereotype threat and anxiety

This experiment followed on the author's previous research (Osborne, 2006) assessing whether stereotype threat can produce physiological arousal and cognitive disruptions that might differentially affect male and female performance in math. As in that previous study, male and female undergraduates were told that they would complete a difficult math test after being told that either "girls score lower in math tests than boys" (stereotype threat for women), or that "there are many cases where girls score as well or better than boys...these tests have never shown gender differences" (control). While students completed the math test, skin conductance, skin surface temperature, and diastolic blood pressure were recorded. Unlike the previous study, stereotype threat effects on performance emerged in this study. Results showed that women performed worse than men under stereotype threat, but there was no difference in performance in the control condition. Only women in the stereotype threat condition exhibited physiological responses consistent with anxiety or autonomic arousal. Specifically, women under stereotype threat showed elevated skin conductance, decreased skin temperature, and increased diastolic blood pressure.

Osborne, J. W. (2007). Linking stereotype threat and anxiety. Educational Psychology, 27, 135-154.

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