Reducing the Effects of Stereotype Threat on African American College Students by Shaping Theories of Intelligence
In this experiment, White and Black students were assigned to one of three conditions to assess the impact of an intervention designed to reduce stereotype threat. In two conditions, students were asked to write a letter of encouragement to a younger student who was experiencing academic struggles. In one of these conditions, students were prompted to endorse a view of intelligence as malleable, "like a muscle" that can grow with work and effort. In the second condition, students endorsed the view that there exists different types of intelligence. The third condition served as a control condition in which students were not asked to compose a letter. Several days after the intervention, all students were asked to indicate their identification with, and enjoyment of academics. Results showed that Black students in particular were more likely to report enjoying and valuing education if they had written a letter endorsing malleable intelligence. In addition, grades collected 9 weeks following the intervention were significantly higher for Blacks in the malleable intelligence condition. Whites showed a similar, though statistically marginal, effect. This study showed that encouraging students to see intelligence as malleable (i.e., embrace an incremental theory of intelligence) can raise enjoyment and performance in academic contexts.