Understanding the Process of Stereotype Threat: A Review of Mediational Variables and New Performance Goal Directions

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Stereotype threat is a situational experience in which an individual feels vulnerable and pressured by the possibility of confirming or being judged by a stereotype. This threatening experience leads to performance decrements, even among highly skilled individuals. This article chronicles empirically tested mechanisms for how stereotype threat negatively impacts performance outcomes. A review of relevant published investigations illustrate that a number of intuitive mediators have been suggested and tested, often with discouraging results. Thus, one objective of this article is to provide researchers with a comprehensive and straightforward account of such tested mechanisms to assist with future works. Indeed, there is much room for research in this area considering that to date, as measured, no individual mediator has completely explained the stereotype threat–poor performance relationship. As such, the second objective of this article is to propose a multiple mediator approach drawing from achievement goal theory. The Stereotyped Task Engagement Process Model is presented. This model hypothesizes that performance goal adoption can offer insights into the potential multiple processes involved in stereotype-threat effects on performance.

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