The role of gender identities and stereotype salience with the academic performance of male and female college athletes

This article investigated academic identity threat among male and female college athletes (N = 88). Whereas male athletes are typically stereotyped as popular but low in academic ability, the same beliefs might not be applied to female athletes. Therefore, it was reasoned that invoking a students identity as an athlete might have different consequences for males and females. To test this possibility, college athletes were asked to complete a series of analogy problems taken from SAT (easier items) and GRE (harder items) practice manuals after being prompted to indicate that they were either a research participant (control), an athlete (athletic-only), or a scholar-athlete (academic-athlete). Findings indicated that men correctly completed a higher percentage of GRE items when their athletic identity was highlighted. In contrast, women scored lower on the SAT items when their academic-athlete identity was primed, compared with when their athletic or neutral identities were emphasized. The results suggest that male and female college students are affected differently when they are linked to athletics. Whereas the male athletic identity may provide stereotype lift allowing affirmation of the self when confronted with a dumb-jock stereotype, female athletes may experience greater threat when their gender identity is explicitly tied to the same negative academic stereotype.

Harris, C. K., Stone, J., Shapiro, J., Yee, S., Boyd, J. A., & Rullan, V. (2009). The role of gender identities and stereotype salience with the academic performance of male and female college athletes. Journal of Sport & Social Issues, 33, 78-96.

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