Stigma on my mind: Individual differences in the experience of stereotype threat

This experiment examined the moderating role of stigma consciousness on stereotype threat. Stigma consciousness refers to differences in the degree that individuals are chronically aware and conscious of their stigmatized status. Whereas individuals low in stigma consciousness typically report that they are unaware of their stereotyped status when interacting with other people and assume that stereotypes will not affect them personally, individuals high in stigma consciousness expect others to interpret their behavior and to judge them through the lens of stereotypes. Female undergraduates who all identified with math but differed in stigma consciousness were recruited for participation in a study involving mathematical ability. Students were told either that the math test they were to take was "completely free of gender bias" (control) or that the test was designed "to explain why men and women perform so differently on standardized math tests" (stereotype threat). Women in the latter condition also indicated their gender before taking the test. Test performance revealed that only women high in stigma consciousness were negatively affected by the stereotype threat manipulation; women high in stigma consciousness performed more poorly in the stereotype threat compared with the control condition. In contrast, women low in stigma consciousness performed equally well in the stereotype threat and control conditions. The results suggest that awareness and expectation that one will be judged in terms of gender stereotypes produces stronger effects when stereotype-based performance expectations are invoked.

Brown, R. P., & Pinel, E. C. (2003). Stigma on my mind: Individual differences in the experience of stereotype threat. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 39, 626633.

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