Rising to the threat: Reducing stereotype threat by reframing the threat as a challenge

Two experiments investigated if stereotype threat can be reduced by reframing the threat as a challenge. Experiment 1 was conducted with Black students in grades 4 to 6 (N = 49) who completely a standardized mathematics exam under one of four conditions in a 2 (framing: stereotype threat vs. challenge) x 2 (race salience: high vs. low) design. Students in the threat conditions were told the test was diagnostic of their ability whereas those in the challenge conditions were told the test was to assist them in improving their general mathematical ability. Race salience was manipulated by having students complete a demographic sheet soliciting racial information either before beginning or after finishing the test. Findings from Experiment 1 suggested that when race was salient, students performed better when the test was framed as a challenge than a threat. Experiment 2 strived to understand how to mitigate stereotype threat with undergraduate students attending Princeton University. Experiment 2 involved White undergraduates from Princeton (N = 124) who had graduated from a variety of high schools. Pilot testing had established that students who had graduated from poorly-represented high schools were more likely to experience academic threat when having to disclose their high school prior to an academic test. Participants were either given a test titled Intellectual Ability Questionnaire and told that it was a reliable measure of [their] basic quantitative ability (stereotype threat) or the same test labelled Intellectual Challenge Questionnaire and told that although it was a reliable measure of their quantitative ability, they should do as well as [they possibly could] and to treat the questionnaire as a challenge. Also, participants were also given a high school demographic form that they completed either before (high salience condition) or after (low salience condition) taking the test. Findings indicated that under stereotype threat, participants from highly represented schools performed better than those who came from poorly represented schools but only when school was made salient before testing. In the challenge condition, the effects of school representation were completely eliminated.These results show that stereotype threat can be mitigated when a threatening task is reframed as a challenging one.

Alter, A.L., Aronson, J., Darley, J.M., Rodriquez, C., & Ruble, D.N. (2010). Rising to the threat: Reducing stereotype threat by reframing the threat as a challenge. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 46, 166-171.