Shades of threat: Black racial identity as a moderator of stereotype threat
This study examined whether Black racial identity might moderate vulnerability to stereotype threat. Recent research on Black racial attitudes suggests that Blacks conceptualize their racial identity in different ways, and the relative salience of various conceptualizations (termed statuses) can modulate inter-racial interactions. Pre-Encounter status tends to be associated with a de-emphasis or even denigration of being Black. Encounter status refers to an emphasis on race in one's self-identity. Immersion-Emersion pertains to the celebration of Black identity and culture but includes denigration of Whites. Internalization status refers to a strong Black racial identity that is non-exclusionary and egalitarian. To examine whether racial identity status affects stereotype threat, Black undergraduates completed subscales to assess the relative strength of each racial identity status. Later, they were randomly assigned to be exposed to a low, medium, or high level of stereotype threat before completing some verbal items from a standardized test. Students were told that the study focused on "understanding how students respond when confronted with a challenging problem solving exercise" (low threat), "verbal ability or verbal intelligence" (medium threat), or "verbal ability or verbal intelligence" and that they would complete another measure that, unbeknownst to them, was designed to highlight racial identity and racial identity attitudes (high threat). Results showed that test performance was best in the low threat, and worst in the high threat condition. Internalization status was positively related to performance in the low threat, but not the high threat condition. These findings suggest that internalization attitudes can be helpful in low threat situations but may not protect against poorer performance under stereotype threat.