When negative stereotypic expectancies turn into challenge or threat: The moderating role of regulatory focus
This experiment used predictions derived from Regulatory Focus Theory (Higgins, 1998) to examine performance under stereotype threat. Regulatory Focus Theory posits the coexistence of two systems involved in self-regulation. Whereas the promotion system is concerned about gain/non-gain and strives to achieve desired end states, the prevention system focuses on loss/non-loss and strives to avoid undesired end states. If stereotype threat involves the fear of confirming undesired stereotypes, stereotype threat should have particularly detrimental effects on performance when the prevention system is activated and produce more modest effects under a promotion focus. To test this hypothesis, male undergraduates were given strategic instructions to induce a prevention or promotion focus then completed a verbal task that "produced gender differences" (stereotype threat) or has "been shown to not produce gender differences" (control). Under stereotype threat, performance was lower for participants using prevention compared with promotion strategies. There were no effects of regulatory focus in the control condition. These results suggest that stereotype threat effects are more likely when individuals are operating with a prevention rather than a promotion focus of self-regulation.