Superstars “like” me: The effect of role model similarity on performance under threat



Past work has shown that in-group role models buffer stereotyped targets from stereotype threat. What is less clear is what makes an effective in-group role model. Accordingly, we conducted a study to examine whether increasing the similarity of in-group role models will enhance their effectiveness in stereotype threat situations. Female participants in this study were either exposed to a more or less similar (on the basis of school affiliation, life experiences, and interests) female job candidate who was either high or low in math competence. Afterwards, participants took a math exam under stereotype threat conditions. Results revealed that similarity moderated the effect of job candidate math competence: Female participants' math performance improved more after exposure to a more similar compared with a less similar, high math-competent candidate. No effects of similarity occurred for the low math-competent candidates. We further found that feelings of intimidation partially mediated the performance effects. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.