Reducing stereotype threat in order to facilitate learning


Kathryn Boucher, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Indiana University, 1101 E. 10th Street, Bloomington, IN 47405, USA.



Recent stereotype threat research has demonstrated that negative stereotypes about women's math ability can impair their mathematical learning. This experiment extends this research by examining whether presenting “gender fair” information can reduce learning decrements (on a focal and transfer task) and if the timing of this information matters. Women (N = 140) and men (N = 60) were randomly assigned to one of four conditions: control, stereotype threat only, stereotype threat removed before learning, and stereotype threat removed after learning. Compared with women in the control condition and women who had stereotype threat removed before learning, learning and transfer were poorer for women in the stereotype threat only condition and women who had stereotype threat removed after learning but before learning assessment. Men's learning and transfer were unaffected by condition. These findings suggest that a manipulation that can reduce performance deficits can also reduce learning decrements if it is presented before learning occurs. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.