When saying and doing diverge: The effects of stereotype threat on self-reported versus non-verbal anxiety

This study tested for non-verbal indicators of anxiety under stereotype threat. To do so, heterosexual and gay men briefly interacted with children in a nursery school after either indicating their sexual orientation (stereotype threat for gay men, given the stereotype that homosexuals pose a risk for young children) or not. Self-reported anxiety following the interaction did not reveal differences between those who had indicated their sexual orientation versus those who had not. However, gay men who had indicated their sexual orientation were more likely to exhibit non-verbal indications of anxiety during their interaction with the children (e.g., more fidgeting, lip chewing, nervous smiling, stiff posture, eye gaze aversion). In addition, gay men who indicated their sexual orientation provided less effective childcare than did men who did not do so, and decrements in care were predicted by non-verbal anxiety. These results show that stereotype threat can produce anxiety that might not be reported but that might manifest itself non-verbally. Moreover, anxiety arising from stereotype threat can harm the quality of interactions.

Bosson, J. K., Haymovitz, E. L., & Pinel, E. C. (2004). When saying and doing diverge: The effects of stereotype threat on self-reported versus non-verbal anxiety. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 40, 247255.

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