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Stereotype Threat

  1. Molly Maxfield,
  2. Tom Pyszczynski

Published Online: 30 JAN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470479216.corpsy0947

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

How to Cite

Maxfield, M. and Pyszczynski, T. 2010. Stereotype Threat. Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1–2.

Author Information

  1. University of Colorado at Colorado Springs

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 30 JAN 2010


The concept of stereotype threat was developed in response to the observation that African American undergraduates underperform relative to their Caucasian counterparts. A common explanation for this frequently observed group difference is that African American students receive inferior preparation for college, largely due to lower socioeconomic status; however, African American students with SAT scores equivalent to Caucasian students were still less successful in college than their nonminority classmates. Steele (2003) provides an overview of the origins of stereotype threat. He and his colleagues began to consider the psychological influences of one's social identity, suggesting that increased awareness of negative stereotypes associated with one's group amplifies concern about confirming that stereotype. This concern ultimately interferes with one's ability to perform and can thus result in the fulfillment of the stereotype. Steele proposed that the existing stereotype that African Americans do not develop strong intellectual abilities negatively influences group members' ability to achieve in college. More generally, because all groups have stereotypes, everyone is potentially susceptible to the performance-undermining effect of stereotype threat.


  • achievement;
  • evaluation apprehension;
  • social identity;
  • stereotypes