From an early age potential inhibitory antecedents to cognitive performance pose acute and irreparable consequences to academic, social, and societal standing (Mckown & Strambler, 2009). One such hindrance are domain specific threats based on social stereotypes, commonly referred to as a Stereotype threat (ST).
Stereotype Threat occurs when members of a particular group are exposed to knowledge of a negative stereotype regarding their group and a specific task, and are succumb with an unconscious fear of perpetuating this stereotype (Ganley, Mingle, Ryan, Ryan, Vasilyeva, & Perry, 2013). In other words, if an individual is made aware of their particular group’s inability to adequately or efficiently complete a specific task, he/she may perform more poorly on this task than those not informed of any predisposition.
This exposure is enough to hinder performance in a variety of academic domains (Picho & Brown, 2011) and chronic ST is hypothesized to lead to complete domain disidentification (Steele, 1997). A seminal presumption asserting members frequently exposed to negative stereotypes pertaining to their group and a domain will begin to place less emphasis on their performance in said domain (Woodcock, Hernandez, Estrada & Schultz, 2012).
An assertion prompting subsequent inquiry and investigation on the gender and race-gap consistently observed in the greater social context with respect to all stages of academic pursuit, and the detrimental effects of stigmatization on cognitive performance reported in the elderly (Mazerolle, Regner, Rigalleau, & Huguet, 2015) minorities (Fischer, 2009), and children of lower socio-economic status (Desert, Preaux, & Jund, 2009). An essential aspect to the induction and consequential effects of stereotype threat lies with Stereotype Consciousness (SC).
Stereotype Consciousness occurs from the realization that others may hold biases toward particular individuals and the group in which they belong. This awareness is first recognized during early childhood and represents a transformation in children’s perception of the social world (Mckown & Weinstein, 2003). Research on the achievement gap observed in boys and girls holds that stereotype consciousness and endorsement of these stereotypes are established in children of both genders as early as 7-8 years of age (Hartley & Sutton, 2013).
For example, the stereotype that girls are academically superior to their male counterparts is not only acknowledged by both female and male students, but readily accepted as fact and presumed to be universal knowledge that teachers, parents, and adults alike agree upon. As a result of this assumption, Hartley et al, (2013) found that when primed with explicit threats toward their own group (e. g. intellectual inferiority to females), boys were significantly more likely to perform worse on a variety of academic tasks including mathematics, reading, and literature than female participants.
On the other hand, eighth grade girls when primed in a similar manner, although using both implicit and explicit threats, found no significant difference in math test scores between the two the groups (Ganley et al. 2013). This furthering the argument that the inoculation and consequences of ST are not only group and domain dependent but may rely on multiple moderators such as individual skill level, task difficulty, and other condition specific variables (Hehman & Bugental, 2013).
While SC is an important factor in contributing to the inhibitory effects of ST, the most detrimental influence lies with how highly a person identifies with the particular group in question, also known as Domain Identification (DI) (Woodcock, et al. 2012). While there are innumerable domains which a person may identify with, social identity theorist suggests that due to its close relation to one’s self-concept, any threat or negative assumption of their group, in respect to a particular domain, may result in an effort to contest such claims in order to maintain a favorable social identity (Picho, et al. , 2011).
They posit individuals who are more highly identified with a particular domain are more motivated to perform well, viewing favorable results as a rewarding and unfavorable ones as punishable (Osborn, 1997) and are therefore at greater risk of the initial effects of stereotype threat than those with novel identification with a particular domain. (Woodcock, et al. , 2012). A Substantial amount of research has been dedicated to ST and generalizing these findings to the broader social context with respect to the achievement-gap observed across and within particular races, ages, and genders (Schmader & Croft, 2011).
Evidence suggests that members of stereotyped groups (non-Asian minorities and women) perform substantially poorer on standardized test than do members of nonstereotyped groups (Logel, Walton, Spencer, Peach & Mark, 2012). Research focusing on the effects of ST on white and non-white college students report a greater adverse effect to academic performance for members of racial minority and stigmatized groups than that of members of dominant and non-stigmatized groups (Von Robertson & Chaney, 2015; Ficher, 2008).
Lastly, in one of few statistically significant examinations conducted outside the laboratory setting Brown and Lee (2005), concluded that SC was more negatively associated with GPA among minority college students than their Caucasian and Asian peers. Although the impact of ST on academic performance within these particular groups are most apparent under laboratory conditions it is has been rightfully argued that these factors are not the sole contributors of the gap in achievement (Cohen & Sherman, 2005).
Therefore any implications of findings pertaining to a specific domain must first see that all prominent moderators had too been taken into consideration. While research centered on this particular phenomenon focus primarily on the effects of ST between groups of a different race, age, and gender, as well as the effect consciousness of these stereotypes have with respect to academic domains, few such studies are dedicated to determining the threshold of sensitivity of ST.
That is to say, should we expect to see similar detrimental consequences to performance in low-skill domain specific task, as preliminary research has found with standardized tests and related assessments which require a large amount of academic competence? In other words, to what effect, if any, does ST have on an individual’s ability to accurately and efficiently complete a menial task when primed with a stereotype directed toward a novel identity?
The present research seeks to shed light on these questions in determining whether college student’s ability to swiftly complete a basic word find reflects their exposure to an explicitly primed negative, positive, or null stereotype directed at their particular group, in this case, the age group in which the participants belong. We hypothesize, when primed with a negative ST directed at their novel identity, participants will perform significantly poorer on the word find than those primed with either a positive or null stereotype.
Conversely, we posit those primed with a positive stereotype will perform significantly better than those with a negative or null. Method Participants A total of fifty-two Undergraduate students, mean age 19. 61 (SD= 1. 37), who were enrolled in general psychology courses at a mid-western university, and met the minimum age requirement of 18 years participated in this study. Although subject variables such as gender and collegiate standing were not analyzed in relation to the dependent variable, for the sake of scholastic continuity and general reference, participants were comprised of 10 males and 42 females.
Likewise, participants constituted 27 freshman (M= 18. 77 years old, SD= 1. 12), 13 sophomores (M= 19. 84 years old, SD=. 55), 7 juniors (M=21. 00 years old, SD=1. 00), and 5 seniors (M=21. 60 years old, SD=. 54). All participants were recruited through the affiliated Department of Psychology’s SONA Systems Participant Pool. Materials Word Find A 20 x 20 character word find consisting of basic English words ranging from 4 to 9 characters (e. g. cactus, community, fish, flower, etc. was used as a measure in assessing the participant’s ability to efficiently complete a menial task. Words and their position remained consistent between participants. Stopwatch A typical digital stopwatch, precise to a 100th of a second, acted as the instrument in measuring performance. Performance by manner of efficiency was assessed using time of completion. Commencement and cessation of the instrument was manually regulated by the researcher.
Demographic Sheet A demographic sheet requesting information regarding participant’s age, gender, and year of school was presented either prior to or upon completion of the task, depending on the condition in which the participant was assigned. This information was used to gather subject variables, instill novel group identification, and act as a prerequisite to the primer. Procedure In assuring randomization of assignment, participants were placed into one of three groups according to the timeslot they signed up for in the SONA Systems Participant Pool.
For example, the participant in the first timeslot was placed into Group A, the second into Group B, and the third into Group C. A procedure which was implemented cyclically down the list, skipping gaps between one slot and the next, as well as any failures to appear. Group A participants were exposed to an explicit negative Stereotype towards their group (e. g. “people in your age range to do poorly on these tasks”), Group B participants were exposed to an explicit positive Stereotype (e. g. people in your age range tend to excel at these task”) and Group C participants acted as the control, receiving no exposure to manipulation.
Prior to beginning the task, Group A and B participants were asked to fill out a demographic sheet which asked for information relating to particular subject variables. This acted as a preliminary primer to both aid in assuring the conscious processing of group identification, as well as allowing for the foremost primer to be effectively implemented using the information provided, specifically that regarding participant’s age.
Group C participants were also asked to complete this form but only following task completion as this information served no purpose save post analysis. Upon arrival participants were read aloud a script which, among initial formalities, asked of them to complete a word find as quickly as they were able and notify the researcher upon their completion. The scripts recited to each participant were nearly identical in wording, deviating only to adhere to each specific condition.
Time of completion began immediately following participants turning the crossword from its initial face-down position to a face-up position, and seized immediately following notification. Participants were urged to act hastily in their efforts for two reasons. The first being that the difficulty required to complete the task may have incited a confounding sense of confidence or self-assurance regarding participant’s abilities. In combating this potential threat, it was necessary to induce a sense of test anxiety regarding efficient time management and perception of potential performance.
The second reason lying with the need to limit the number of participants whose time may have vastly exceeded that of the average, or that which is to be expected given the tasks simplicity. Following completion of the word find all participants were debriefed on the purpose of the study and informed of the definition and effects of stereotype threat. Course credit (2 credits) was granted as compensation for their participation. Results A 1 (time) ? 3 (condition) Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) was run using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) software.
Results indicated a significant difference in completion time between conditions F(2, 49) = 8. 90, p = . 001 as well as a large effect size, ? 2 = . 26. Levene’s test for homogeneity of variance was found to be significant. In correcting for violating the assumption of equal variance, a Tamhane’s Post-Hoc analysis was conducted to compare means. Contrary to postulations, participants in the negative stereotype condition (M = 10. 36, SD = 2. 81) showed no significant difference in performance than those of the positive condition (M = 10. 71, SD = 3. 3, p = . 986), while, surprisingly, those in the control condition (M =16. 07, SD = 6. 11), who received no stereotype prime, performed significantly worse than those in both the positive (M = 10. 71, SD = 3. 83, p = . 015) and negative condition (M = 10. 36, SD = 2. 81, p =. 006).
The hypothesis that participants that were given negative expectations about their performance, group A, would take longer to complete the task than both the participants given positive expectations about their performance, group B, and the control group, group C, was disproven.
The secondary hypothesis that the participants in group B would perform better than the participants in group C was initially confirmed as there was statistically significance (p = . 001) but given group B did not perform significantly better than group A, and group A also performed significantly better than group C (p = . 001) it is clear that both group A and group B performed similarly and that a stereotype threat was not introduced.