Stereotype threat effects on black and white athletic performance

In these studies, Black and White undergraduates were asked to complete a task involving golf skills, but the description of the task was varied to create a condition of stereotype threat for each group in one condition. In Experiment 1, participants were led to believe either that the task required natural sports ability or required athletic intelligence. Based on culturally-shared stereotypes, these descriptions should introduce stereotype threat for White and Black participants, respectively. In fact, Blacks did perform better on the task when it was described as reflecting natural sports ability than when it was based on athletic intelligence, and Whites showed the opposite pattern. Experiment 2 focused on White participants who completed the task under high ("natural athletic ability") or low ("sports psychology") stereotype threat descriptions. Again, Whites students performed more poorly when the task was believed to reflect natural ability, but this did not occur for students who indicated that athletic performance was unrelated to their self-worth. In addition, task description did not affect students if their attention had been drawn to assessing the quality of the lab in which the test was performed, indicating that distraction might undermine stereotype threat. These studies show that stereotype threat is a general phenomenon that can affect performance when a stereotype of poor performance implicates a valued social identity.

Stone, J., Lynch, C. I., Sjomeling, M., & Darley, J. M. (1999). Stereotype threat effects on black and white athletic performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77, 1213-1227.

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