Activating Stereotypes Undermines Task Performance Expectations

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Abstract

According to the theory of stereotype threat (C. M. Steele, 1997; C. M. Steele & J. Aronson, 1995), activating stereotypes about a group's typical underperformance on a task can undermine a group member's performance on that task. The goal of the present research was to more fully delineate the contexts that activate task-performance stereotypes and the mechanisms that might lead to, or potentially prevent, such performance decrements. In 2 experiments, individuals led to believe that they had high ability on a task predicted that they would do better on future performances of the same or similar tasks than did those given ambiguous feedback about their task abilities when stereotypes were not accessible. However, activating group stereotypes—for instance, by creating expected solo status—undermined these positive expectations.

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