The stereotype threat explanation of achievement gaps has attracted criticism. According to Paul R. Sackett, Chaitra M. Hardison, and Michael J. Cullen, both the media and scholarly literature have wrongly concluded that eliminating stereotype threat could completely eliminate differences in test performance between European-American and African-American individuals. For example, Sackett et al. have pointed out that in Steele and Aronson's (1995) experiments where stereotype threat was removed, an achievement gap remained which was very close in size to that routinely reported between African-American and European-Americans' average scores on large-scale standardized tests such as the SAT (about one standard deviation). In subsequent correspondence between Sackett et al. and Steele and Aronson, Sackett et al. wrote that "They agree that it is a misinterpretation of the Steele and Aronson (1995) results to conclude that eliminating stereotype threat eliminates the African American-White test-score gap."
Gijsbert Stoet and David C. Geary reviewed the evidence for the stereotype threat explanation of the achievement gap in mathematics between men and women. They concluded that the relevant stereotype threat research has many methodological problems, such as not having a control group, and that the stereotype threat literature on this topic misrepresents itself as "well established". They concluded that the evidence is in fact very weak.
Whether the effect occurs at all has also been questioned, with researchers failing to replicate the finding. In followup work, Ganley et al. (2013) examined stereotype threat on mathematics test performance. They report a series of 3 studies, with a total sample of 931 students. These included both childhood and adolescent subjects and three activation methods, ranging from implicit to explicit. While they found some evidence of gender differences in math, these occurred regardless of stereotype threat. Importantly, they found "no evidence that the mathematics performance of school-age girls was impacted by stereotype threat". In addition, they report that evidence for stereotype threat in children appears to be subject to publication bias. The literature may reflect selective publication of false-positive effects in underpowered studies, where large, well-controlled studies find smaller or non-significant effects.
In a study designed to see whether incentives could overcome stereotype threat in mathematics tests, Fryer Levitt and List (2008) could not replicate the stereotype threat, finding a modest facilitation effect of threat for males and females.
Read more about this topic: Stereotype Threat
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