Stereotype Threat - Mitigation


Additional research seeks ways to boost the test scores and academic achievement of students in negatively-stereotyped groups. In one study, teaching college women about stereotype threat and its effects on performance was sufficient to eliminate the predicted gender gap on a difficult math test. Making people aware of the fact that they will not necessarily perform worse simply due to the existence of a stereotype, can boost their performance. Another approach involves persuading participants that intelligence is malleable and can be increased through effort. If people believe that they can improve their performance based on effort, they are more likely to believe that they can overcome negative stereotypes and perform well.

A third type of intervention involves having participants engage in self-affirmation, which is a process in which participants write about a value that is important to them. In 2006, researchers Geoffrey L. Cohen, Julio Garcia, Nancy Apfel, and Allison Master found that a self-affirmation exercise (in the form of a brief in-class writing assignment) significantly improved the grades of African-American middle-school students, and reduced the racial achievement gap by 40%. Cohen et al. have suggested that the racial achievement gap could be at least partially ameliorated by brief and targeted social-psychological interventions. One such intervention was attempted with UK medical students, who were given a written assignment and a clinical assessment. For the written assignment group, white students performed worse than minority students. For the clinical assessment, both groups improved their performance maintaining the racial difference. Allowing participants to think about a positive value or attribute about themselves prior to completing the task, seemed to make them less susceptible to stereotype threat.

A fourth intervention for stereotype threat involves increasing participants' feelings of social belonging within the academic world. Greg Walton and Geoffrey Cohen were able to boost the grades of African-American college students, as well as eliminate the racial achievement gap over the first year of college, by telling participants that concerns about social belonging tend to lessen over time. Allowing individuals to feel as though they are welcomed into a desirable group, they are more likely to ignore stereotypes. If minority college students are welcomed into the world of academia, they are less likely to be influenced by the negative stereotypes of poor minority performance on academic tasks.

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