When White Men Cant Do Math: Necessary and Sufficient Factors in Stereotype Threat

The two experiments reported in this paper demonstrate that stereotype threat is a general phenomenon that can be experienced by members of any group depending on context. In Experiment 1, White males with high math SAT scores took a difficult math test. In one condition, students were given information suggesting that Asians typically outperform other students in math. Moreover, the students in this condition were told that the study was designed to identify the nature and scope of differences in performance between Asians and other groups in mathematics. In a second control condition there was no mention of Asians, only information suggesting that the task was designed to assess mathematical ability. Participants in the first condition performed significantly worse than students in the control condition. Experiment 2 replicated this finding but also showed moderation by identification with mathematics; only those students who were highly identified with mathematics performed more poorly under stereotype threat. These studies show that stereotype threat can undermine performance of any individual who has a strong identity with a domain when context highlights stereotypes suggesting relatively poor performance in that domain.

Aronson, J., Lustina, M. J., Good, C., Keough, K., Steele, C. M., & Brown, J. (1999). When White Men Cant Do Math: Necessary and Sufficient Factors in Stereotype Threat. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 35, 29-46.

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