The effects of in-group versus out-group social comparison on self-esteem in the context of a negative stereotype
This study investigated the consequences of different kinds of social comparisons under stereotype threat. Whereas comparisons with superior ingroup members typically lead to lowered state self-esteem, it was suggested that such comparisons might elevate state self-esteem when the superior ingroup member is viewed as challenging stereotypes. To test this hypothesis, female Black students participated in a study in which they were put under stereotype threat by being told that "the study was to standardize a new IQ measure of natural math ability." In addition, all students were asked to indicate their race on a form before beginning the math test. After completing the test, students encountered a same-race or White confederate (i.e., a person surreptitiously acting in collaboration with the experimenter) who indicated to the experimenter and the student that she had either performed very poorly or very well. The students then completed measures of current mood and state self-esteem. Results revealed no effects of experimental conditions on mood, but significant effects regarding state self-esteem. In conditions where the confederate was White, a high reported performance by the confederate tended to produce lower self-esteem compared with a poor reported performance. In contrast, self-esteem moved in tandem with the confederate's reported performance in the same-race condition; reported high performance produced higher self-esteem than reported poor performance. These results suggest that self-esteem can be boosted under conditions that produce stereotype threat by providing role models who disconfirm negative stereotypes.