Solo status and self-construal: Being distinctive influences racial self-construal and performance apprehension in African American women

Two experiments examined the role of solo status on identity salience. It was hypothesized that solo status would tend to increase collective self-construal (i.e., a self-view that one represents one's group and that one's actions might reflect on their group). In Experiment 1, White and Black college students were given information that would supposedly be used in an upcoming study they would complete with some other students. Each student was then given photographs of the other students, and the composition of these photo sets was used to manipulate solo status. In the solo status condition, White and Black students were shown three photos of either three Blacks or three Whites, respectively. In the non-solo condition, each student was shown a picture of one same-race and two other-race students. Students then completed scales designed to measure individual and collective identity. Black students endorsed collectivist over individualist self-construal in the solo compared with the non-solo condition, but White students' responses did not differ based on solo status. Therefore, race-based collective identity was highlighted for Blacks but not for Whites under solo status. In Experiment 2, White and Black female college students individually listened over headphones to instructions regarding an upcoming task they would supposedly later complete with three other students, and solo status was again manipulated as in Experiment 1. After having an interaction with what they thought were the other students (actually, a pre-programmed computer interaction designed to simulate interpersonal interactions), participants completed measures reflecting centrality of their race to their self-identity, race reflection (i.e., belief that their performance would reflect on their race), performance apprehension (reflecting in a tendency to self-handicap by invoking with external factors to explain poor performance), and race representativeness (the degree they represented and viewed as important their racial group). Data from Black students showed that race was more central to their identity, that performance would reflect on their race, and more performance apprehension in the solo compared with the non-solo condition. White women students showed no effect of solo status. These results show that racial solo status, particularly for minorities, tends to increase the salience of racial identity, increasing vulnerability to stereotype threat in contexts where negative stereotypes might arise.

Sekaquaptewa, D., Waldman, A., & Thompson, M. (2007). Solo status and self-construal: Being distinctive influences racial self-construal and performance apprehension in African American women. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 13, 321-327.