Stereotype susceptibility: Identity salience and shifts in quantitative performance

Two studies examined how intellectual performance can be moderated by highlighting different stereotyped social identities. In Experiment 1, Asian-American undergraduates completed a math task after responding to a survey questionnaire designed to highlight ethnicity but that did not explicitly refer to stereotypes. The survey focused on students' ethnic identity, their gender identity, or neither identity. This manipulation is particularly interesting because one identity ("woman") is typically negatively stereotyped but the other ("Asian") is typically positively stereotyped in quantitative domains. Results showed that performance was best in the Asian-identity condition, moderate in the control condition, and worst in the gender-identity condition. In Experiment 2, female high school participants from Canada (where the stereotype of Asian superiority in mathematics is weaker) showed best performance in the control condition, followed by the Asian-identity condition, followed by the gender-identity condition. These studies show that a subtle highlighting of group memberships predictably increases stereotype-confirming behavior.

Shih, M., Pittinsky, T. L., & Ambady, N. (1999). Stereotype susceptibility: Identity salience and shifts in quantitative performance. Psychological Science, 10, 80-83.