Threatened to distraction: Mind-wandering as a consequence of stereotype threat

Two studies examined how mind wandering might occur under stereotype threat. Study 1 was conducted with female undergraduate students (N = 43), compared the frequency of mind-wandering in stereotype threat compared with control conditions. Participants were told they would complete a math test. In one condition, the test was described as diagnostic of their math ability and being used to understand differences between men and women. Also, the participant sat between two male confederates, and the experimenter was male (stereotype threat). In a second condition, the experiment was run by a woman and participants were told that the test was a problem-solving exercise (control). All participants were then shown three difficult math/problem-solving items they would later have to solve, but, before doing so, they completed a task commonly used to measure mind-wandering. This task requires participants over several hundred trials to respond quickly to frequent stimuli by pressing a space bar while refraining from responding to rare stimuli. Findings from Study 1 provided several indicators of mind-wandering under stereotype threat: these participants were more likely to make incorrect responses and showed a high degree of variability in the speed of their responses. In Study 2, female undergraduates (N = 72) took a math test that was either referred to as a Quantitative Examination and required participants to indicate their gender (stereotype threat) or referred to as a problem-solving exercise where no gender information was solicited (control). While participants completed the math test on a computer, a question appeared numerous times at random asking them to indicate the degree to which their mind was completely

Mrazek, M.D., Chin, J.M., Schmader, T., Hartson, K.A., Smallwood, J., & Schooler, J.W. (2011). Threatened to distraction: Mind-wandering as a consequence of stereotype threat. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 47, 1243-1248.