The differential effects of solo status on members of high- and low-status groups
Two experiments examined the role of solo status on stereotype threat. Although many field studies had suggested that performance of women and ethnic minorities was undermined in relation to their numerical minority status, most lab studies had not. These researchers suspected that these seemingly discrepant findings emerged because field studies usually had focused on minority status at the time of performance, whereas lab studies typically had focused on the time of learning. To test this possibility, Experiment 1 involved male and female undergraduates exchanging information either with same- or opposite-sex groups, and then being tested on their knowledge of that information in same- or opposite-sex groups. Results showed that women had a tendency to perform more poorly when their knowledge was tested in the presence of a group of men, but men did not show this effect when tested with a group of women. Interestingly, both men and women performed more poorly when they learned under solo status (i.e., when they learned with an opposite-sex group). Experiment 2 assessed whether similar effects would emerge based on ethnicity by having White and Black female undergraduates complete the same task used in Experiment 1, but with all-female groups that varied in ethnic composition. Only Black women were negatively affected by solo status at performance. These results show that social status interacts with solo status: stereotype threat effects during testing are more likely when solo members of low-status groups perform in the presence of high-status outgroups.