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STEREOTYPE THREAT AND GENDER DIFFERENCES IN PERFORMANCE ON A NOVEL VISUOSPATIAL TASK

Authors


  • Susan Miller Campbell and Marcia L. Collaer, Department of Psychology, Middlebury College.

  • This research was supported by Vermont EPSCoR through grant number NSF EPS Grant 0236976. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not represent the official views of NSF or Vermont EPSCoR. Findings from this study were presented at the Eastern Psychological Association meeting in March 2007 in Philadelphia.

  • We thank Sandy Beverly and Lindsay Oliver for their assistance with data collection and scoring.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Susan M. Campbell, Department of Psychology, Middlebury College, Middlebury, VT 05753. E-mail: scampbel@middlebury.edu.

Abstract

Stereotype threat research has shown that being a member of a negatively stereotyped group may result in impaired performance on tests of skills thought to be relevant to the stereotype. This study investigated whether stereotype threat influences gender differences in performance on a novel test of visuospatial ability. Undergraduates (N = 194) were told that men outperform women on the test (explicit threat), were given no gender-relevant information (implicit threat), or were told that men and women do not differ (nullified stereotype). Although men outperformed women in the explicit and implicit stereotype threat groups, women's performance did not differ significantly from men's when told there is no gender difference. The effect was most pronounced for difficult line judgments. Although stereotypes regarding visuospatial ability may be less culturally salient than those of other cognitive abilities, these findings suggest that they influence performance nonetheless. Implications for optimizing cognitive test performance are discussed.

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