Stereotype susceptibility in children: Effects of identity activation on quantitative performance

Two experiments focused on the emergence of stereotype threat in children. In Experiment 1, Asian-American girls (kindergarten to 8th grade) completed tasks that were intended to highlight their Asian identity (ethnicity-based stereotype threat), their female identity (gender-based stereotype threat), or neither identity (control). Following these tasks, all girls completed items from a standardized math test. Girls from lower-elementary and middle school grades showed similar effects: math performance was bolstered when Asian identity had been made salient, but harmed scores when female identity had been made salient. Upper-elementary students, in contrast, performed best when their female identity had been highlighted. Experiment 2 focused on Asian-American boys in the same age group. Boys in lower-elementary and middle school grades performed better when gender and race identity were made salient than in the control condition, providing evidence of potential beneficial consequences of stereotypes suggesting strong math performance. Upper-elementary boys performed better when gender, rather than race, was highlighted. These results show that children can be affected by stereotype threat in a fashion similar to adults. Upper-elementary students showed a pattern that might reflect the typical presumed superiority of one's own sex group during upper-elementary years.

Ambady, N., Shih, M., Kim, A., & Pittinsky, T. L. (2001). Stereotype susceptibility in children: Effects of identity activation on quantitative performance. Psychological Science, 12, 385-390.

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