STEREOTYPE THREAT AND THE GENDER GAP IN POLITICAL KNOWLEDGE

Authors


  • Matthew S. McGlone, Department of Communication Studies, The University of Texas at Austin; Joshua Aronson, Department of Applied Psychology, New York University; Diane Kobrynowicz, Division of Recreational Sports, The University of Texas at Austin.

  • This research was supported in part by a Research Opportunity Award from the National Science Foundation (BCS#0126557-A1). We thank Angela Neal and Buffie Longmire for their assistance in data collection and Ann McGillicuddy–De Lisi, Michael Inzlicht, and John Daly for their comments and suggestions regarding this research.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Matthew S. McGlone, Department of Communication Studies, The University of Texas at Austin, 1 University Station A1105, Austin, TX 78712. E-mail: matthew_mcglone@mail.utexas.edu

Abstract

Men tend to achieve higher response accuracy than women on surveys of political knowledge. We investigated the possibility that this performance gap is moderated by factors that render the communicative context of a survey intellectually threatening to women and thereby induce stereotype threat. In a telephone survey of college students' political knowledge, we manipulated two factors of the survey context: the alleged diagnosticity of the question set (i.e., whether it was portrayed as being sensitive to potential gender differences) and the gender of the interviewer. Consistent with previous studies of political knowledge, men scored higher than women overall. However, as predicted, this difference was reliably moderated by the manipulated factors. Women's scores were not reliably different from men's when the survey was portrayed as nondiagnostic and when women were interviewed by female interviewers. Diagnosticity and interviewer gender had no effects on men's scores. Consistent with previous research on stereotype threat, these results suggest that explicit and implicit cues reminding women of the possibility that they might confirm a negative gender stereotype can impair their retrieval of political knowledge.

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