What are the consequences of Stereotype Threat?

Stereotype threat produces numerous consequences, most of which are negative in nature. Many studies have replicated and extended the finding first reported by Steele and Aronson (1995) that invoking group memberships associated with stereotypes can harm performance on tasks where poor performance might confirm stereotypes. Subsequent work has broadened to examine performance on many different tasks and a variety of consequences. Here we review the major consequences of stereotype threat that have been identified in research to date.

 
 
Internal Attributions for Failure

Individuals often attempt to identify what factors are responsible when they fail to achieve a desired outcome. In doing so, factors pertaining to the individual (i.e., internal factors) or factors related to the situation (i.e., external factors) can be invoked.

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 Koch, Müller, and Sieverding (2008) showed that women under stereotype threat were more likely than men to attribute their failure on a computer task to internal characteristics. To the degree that failure in a domain is explained by internal rather than external factors, stereotypes are reinforced.    

 
Decreased Performance

Perhaps the most widely known consequence of stereotype threat is reduced achievement on tests in situations in which the stereotype is relevant.

Most studies have focused on poorer performance on tests in academic environments, and such effects have been demonstrated in laboratory studies (Steele & Aronson, 1995) in real classrooms (Cole, Matheson, & Anisman, 2007Neuville & Croizet, 2007), and on state-wide standardized tests (Good, Aronson, & Inzlicht, 2003). Stereotype threat also harms performance on tasks that have previously been suggested to be "culture free" and relatively "pure" measures of cognitive ability and reasoning (Brown & Day, 2006), suggesting that bias in standardized tests cannot account for these effects.

In addition to affecting test performance, stereotype threat has been shown to decrease performance on other kinds of tasks. Stereotype threat effects have been shown on tasks involving groups and domains as diverse as Whites and women in athletics (Stone & McWhinnie, 2008), women in negotiation (Kray, Galinsky, & Thompson, 2002), gay men in childcare (Bosson, Haymovitz, & Pinel, 2004), the elderly in memory performance (Levy, 1996) and women in driving (Yeung & von Hippel, 2008). Stereotype threat, it appears, can harm performance on any task where a stereotype is invoked suggesting that members of some groups will perform more poorly than others.  

The reason that performance suffers under stereotype threat is still a matter of some debate. Research has shown that factors such as anxiety (e.g., Marx & Stapel, 2006), physiological arousal (e.g., Blascovich et al., 2001), and reduced cognitive capacity (e.g., Schmader & Johns, 2003) can all occur under stereotype threat, and each factor might contribute to lowered performance.

 
 
Reactance

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Ironic Effects

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Self-Handicapping

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Task Discounting

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Distancing the self from the stereotyped group

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Disengagement and disidentification

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Altered professional identities and aspirations

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