The Generality and Consequences of Stereotype Threat



‘Stereotype threat’ refers to the state of psychological discomfort people experience when confronted by an unflattering reputation in a situation where that reputation can be confirmed by one's behavior. Once aroused, stereotype threat can have a number of disruptive effects, among them the short-term impairment of intelligent thought and academic achievement. Over time, it can prompt defensive adaptations that have far-reaching effects, such as disengagement from activities or domains where the stereotype is relevant, which in turn can lead to impaired intellectual development. Stereotype threat thus can result in a self-fulfilling prophecy whereby a person comes to resemble his or her reputation, living up or down to social expectations. This article reviews the development of the stereotype threat construct from Steele and Aronson's (1995) original demonstration to investigations of its generality and mediators and to more recent studies focusing on strategies for reducing its negative effects.