Predicting stereotype threat, anxiety, and cognitive ability test performance: An examination of three models

This study examined the influence of individual difference and contextual factors on performance via a test of cognitive ability. Male and female undergraduate students completed a battery of personality questionnaires designed to assess Neuroticism, Extroversion, Openness, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness, as well as a scale to assess belief in the malleability of intelligence. The students were told that the upcoming test was either diagnostic of general cognitive ability (high stereotype threat) or that it was an interest measure (low stereotype threat), and that the test was relevant to acquiring a job as postal clerk (low face validity) or as a geometry teacher (high face validity). Variables measured included test anxiety, perceptions of stereotype threat, and task performance. Students reported experiencing greater threat and performed more poorly in the stereotype condition. Path analyses were conducted to assess the causal relations between variables. Agreeableness predicted all measures, with higher agreeableness producing higher stereotype threat, greater anxiety, and lower test scores. Openness to Experience was the only other personality predictor of stereotype threat, with higher levels associated with greater perceived threat. Belief in the malleability of intelligence was related to cognitive ability test scores and stereotype threat belief, with belief in fixed intelligence producing greater stereotype threat and poorer performance. These results show that both individual differences in Agreeableness and beliefs about the malleability of intelligence can affect the formation and consequences of stereotype threat.

Sawyer, T. P. Jr., & Hollis-Sawyer, L. A. (2005). Predicting stereotype threat, anxiety, and cognitive ability test performance: An examination of three models. International Journal of Testing, 5, 225-246.

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