Stereotype threat is especially prevalent among minority groups

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stereotype Threat: Is low performance the
price of Self-identity/Esteem for Minorities?

Nusrat Yasmin

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!


order now

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Imagine being in a middle of a test and
remembering the stereotypes against yourself and debating whether you will be
able to perform your best. This kind of thoughts raids up many people that faces
stereotype threat. Stereotype threat refers to the phenomenon where an
individual perform poorly after a relevant stereotype about them is made
salient or addressed in the situation. In other words, confirming to the
negative believes society hold/held against the groups they belong to.

Stereotype threat is especially prevalent among minority groups such as African
American and Women. The overall impression on stereotype threat is that it is
in no way applicable to individualistic qualities and other than being a form
of discrimination, and it holds no other value nor does imply facts about any
specified groups (Mio, Barker-Hackett, & Tumambing, 2006). However, it
still does affect the target groups in negative ways that will be discussed
subsequently.

            There
is a historical component of oppression of minorities by the dominant culture.

The historical context of stereotype threat is very relevant when it comes to
studying it, especially when examining the African American population. African
Americans have been more vulnerable to face discrimination and
micro-aggressions in the US throughout history. According to a study performed
in the University of California, even today, students in an academic setting
faced racial micro-aggression and as a result of such actions the racial
environment become more negative (Solórzano, Ceja and Yosso, 2000). From this,
one can automatically infer that if the Black students at a college already are
labeled for being ‘black’ then obviously this may reflect his or her
performance on academic tasks.

            To
deeply understand the historical roots for stereotype threat, it is necessary
to examine the formation of different negative stereotypes directed toward
minorities. For example, there is a belief that whites are superior in
intelligence when it comes to performance in any task, thus people
automatically indicates the idea of minorities performing poorly into any tasks
where there is a comparison between whites and other minorities’. Obviously
these implications are derived from the colonialist history of the United
States. According to Plous & Williams during the days of American slavery,
many whites held stereotypes of blacks as “inferior, unevolved, and apelike”
(1995). Even to this day, from this type of implied racism, African Americans
and other oppressed minorities often develops their identity disliking their
own race and having a negative connotation based on society’s judgment.  Research by Plous & Williams, said that
more than half of the blacks in the study endorsed and accepted at least one
stereotypical difference in anatomy and thinking ability without any question,
which in turn affected their self-identity (1995).

            Stereotype
threat is a causation of confirming to the negative beliefs people hold, thus
priming an individual to these beliefs will only enhance the chance of doing
poorly in a task. Catholic University of Louvain designed a study to examine
how affective a stigmatized stereotype can be on a group of people. They chose
a group of white men (who are generally not stereotyped) and told them that men
generally do poorly on affective thinking tasks than women (Leyens, Désert,
Croizet, & Darcis, 2000). Although this was just an assumption, those same
men performed poorly just solely because the researchers said they would do so.

The men decreased their “threshold for affectivity ‘to prove’ the
inapplicability of the stereotype to themselves” (Leyens et al. 2000). The same
way, if black and colored children constantly have to ‘hear’ or ‘see’
themselves and their peers do poorly than the whites, they might internalize the
stigma and apply it their performance.

Contemporary research shows that
stereotype threat can cause attention limitation in the working memory because
of the vulnerability that’s placed in them by priming with various stereotypes
among the group (Steele & Aronson, 2000). Based on Steele and Aronson’s
study, when black students are given an ability related task, such as
measurement of IQ, they tend to do poorly when judged with white students
(2000). However, when they take a non-diagnostic conditioned aptitude test they
perform about the same as the white students. This study confirm that their
memory performance is distracted while thinking about the stereotypes, and this
is why people who are from minority groups do not do as well in standardized
tests (Steele & Aronson, 2000).  This
is especially relevant because working memory is the part of the memory that
involves problem solving and applying critical thinking with incoming
information and when stereotypes are made salient, the performer uses their
critical thinking processes to think about the threats rather than the question
in hand.

Moreover, according to research,
apparently when the cues of the stereotype threats are made more salient to the
participants, minorities tend to do worse on those with forceful cues and
perform better with subtle cues (Nguyen & Ryan, 2008). For example, asking
to indicate their race before an exam may trigger more stereotypical views
about the group. Thus, as implied, the incoming information about their race
plays role as a distraction which lowers their performance on the task at hand;
on the other hand, the majority group does not have to deal with stereotype
threat which is why it seems as though they are performing better when in
reality they are not.

            Some
of the implications of stereotype threat are very noticeable in the real world.

For example, in the recent election, the population strikingly voted for
someone who is very conservative and not representative of the American minority
population. According to Craig and Richeson (2014) the shift in change of
attitude is mostly because of the perceived threat of minority becoming
majority. Often when people are asked to justify the decision of such conflict,
most people say that they don’t think a ‘woman’ is fit to run the country (a
woman is an indication of inferiority). Similarly, in the election of 2008,
many people did not want to elect the first black president because of the
perceived stereotype threat that is held against the African American race. It
took more than 43 presidents to elect an African American president even though
African Americans have been part of the US population for almost 300 years.

Their race is simply put in a lower scale when it comes to performing relevant
task. These types of judgments will enhance the chance of stereotype threat
occurring and being a factor in the current and future times.

            Since
physical attributes and looks plays a role as to why these stereotypes are
created, it is also important to note that there are not many studies about
stereotypical threat on Asian Americans. Their physical attributes
automatically categorize them as ‘smart’ and this is probably influenced by the
stereotype that they are ‘generally smarter’. Therefore, perhaps, when they
take a comparison test with the majority they do not feel the pressure to
confirm to anything. Whereas, being black automatically triggers people to
think they are inferior to whites, thus even if they are smarter, they do not
have the advantage of their physical attributes. According to Plous &
Williams, findings suggest that negative stereotypes concerning the “physical and
mental endowments of blacks are more common than previously estimated and this
increases the risk of stereotype threats” (1995).

            Stereotype
threats are often noticed in women as well. For example, in a study by Spencer
and colleagues studied how women’s math skills are affected by the stereotype
we have that females are not as good as men in math. The first part of the
study investigated whether there is a substantial difference in math scores
when the participants are told they are testing for a gender based exam
(Spencer, Steele, Quin, 1999). The second part did not indicate any reasoning
behind the test itself (Spencer et al.1999). The results found that although
the group of people selected were highly intelligent and selective, women
performed worse when they were told the experiment was looking at gender
differences and stereotype threat.

      In addition, research shows that the overlap of gender and race
can double the effects of stereotype threat. In a study by Patricia Gonzales, found
that Latino and African American women in particular did substantially poorly
when they were tested for Math and Spatial skills (2002). Their  gender made their results much more triggering
than while women. Their gender of being a Latino women as opposed to a white
woman, qualified them to be more sensitized to negative gender stereotype than
white counterparts. Although in this study their gender made it more salient,
women of color lives in the intersection of both negative factors. They are
almost living life in both polarized sides of the negatives.

Now one may question how do stereotype
threats affect someone’s self-identity? It is a well-established that
stereotype can be in the way of developing self-esteem and identity as we have
encountered so far from empirical research.  In all the examples discussed thus far, it is
implied that the participants of the studies are not inherently performing
poorly but instead they are not able to do well from the negative views they
hold about themselves (definition of self-identity). According to the Oxford
English dictionary, self-identity is the “recognition of one’s potential and
qualities as an individual”, especially in relation to social context. Being
able to have self-efficacy is a huge part of developing self-identity as well,
and it is almost impossible to argue that a person will reach their potential
self-efficacy and esteem if they are constantly seen as part of the inferior
group and perform poorly.

            When
I recently interviewed a friend who is a Black male living in NYC, I was able
to notice the extent to how much stereotype can effect on an individual level
even outside of the academics. When I asked my friend whether or not he feels
like he struggles with self-identity because of negative stereotypes, he said
that he would be more affected if he was not aware of it. Which is why he thinks
younger people are more prone to face stereotype threat in school settings. But
even with being aware, he said he does still feel vulnerable sometimes
depending on the situation. For example, he thinks he should not participate as
much in classes if the population is disproportionately white. In addition, he
mentioned that people most people are not aware of stereotype threat, and they
think they are naturally underperforming in tasks which can lead to automatic
low self-esteem regardless of race or gender. Similarly when I think stereotype
threat from a woman’s point of view, it is similar to those who are African-
American. As a female myself, even though I mostly try to block out the
negative stereotypes against females, I see a lot of females around me
conforming and thinking they are less of the men.

            We
have also noticed the effects of stereotypes discussed in various novels. In
the novel, Lose your Mother by Sadiya Hartman (2006), she discusses how people
just takes the struggle of African Americans as normative part of our society
instead thinking about how they are struggling and how these stereotypical way
of thinking are affecting them. Similarly, in Aimee Cox’s Shapershifter, we
constantly are faced with the dilemma between individuals and how they are
defined by their collective place in the society. The characters in the novel
decide to not go through the path of success because they are seen as
‘different’ and not in line with how people and their friends generally views
the identity of black girls. Therefore, even those who know they have the
ability to be successful do not comply because of the stereotypes present
against them.

Stereotype can stray people
of color and women to stray away from affirming to a positive self-identity
because it is almost like they cannot escape these beliefs that are held
against them in real-world. according to a study by Journal of youth and
Adolescence, self-esteem is highly related and correlated to a positive
self-esteem. Therefore, influences like stereotypes, the status of the
ethnicity and gender in society can immensely affect someone’s self-esteem and in
the long their self- identity. Lack of care for self not only can leave cognitive
impairments (as discussed), but it can also put the vulnerable population to physical
illnesses and distress. Many African Americans today are less likely to seek
help for their physical or mental illness because they feel that they are not
treated justly or aren’t seen as equal to others. For instance in a study by,
Saha, Cuevas, and O’Brien (2016), after cautious community transcriptions
review of African American patients, it was concluded that African Americans, tend
to have poor health outcomes and oftentimes their symptoms are neglected by the
provider because of implicit stigma of racism and inferiority in the society.

Since stereotype threat
continues to show race and gender gaps in standardized tests, Good, Aronson,
& Inzlicht, examined a possible solution to stereotype threat (2003). They
designed an intervention where seventh graders of color and low-income students
were grouped with recent college students in order to be mentored. The purpose
of this mentoring program was to ingrain the idea that intelligence is
malleable and depends solely on effort and dedication. The researchers thought
it is essential to start the intervention with adolescents, because that’s when
people explore and identify themselves the most. The results, after a certain
time spent in intervention, suggest a substantial increase in the standardized
score of reading and writing exams. Perhaps, designing these programs in local
schools in Low SES neighborhoods with minorities may reduce the effects of
stereotype threats.

            Nonetheless,
although stereotype threat has been primarily studied within educational
outcomes, it can also affect the targeted marginalized groups’ personalities
negatively. According to a study by Angela Scott from Tennessee University,
says that stereotype threat can affect the decision-making and thought
processes in African American (2015). This is probably derived from the idea
that they are assumed to inferior when it comes to intelligence, so they think
in a way where they think lesser of themselves. Scott (2015) specifically says
that the change in cognitive behavioral thinking is apparent only in college
students and this is assuming that they face most stereotype threat because of
being in an academic setting continuously.

            Scott
(2015) also studied another effect of stereotype threat. She attempted to see
why African American college students do not seek as much mental help therapy
and whether or not this could be related to stereotype threat. She assumed that
the negative stereotypes toward African Americans’ intellectual ability affect
them when it comes to knowing and seeking help about mental health. As
presumed, the result suggests that many people who belong to stereotyped group
do not feel comfortable seeking help for other aspects in their lives (Scott,
2016). Since people of color tend to not seek health care, stereotype threat is
overall a contributor of health disparities.

            Stereotype
threat is often noticed in sports as well. To identify this within the sports
world, Jeff Stone and his colleagues set up an experiment in a golf course
(Stone, Lynch, Sjomeling, & Darley, 1999). When they tested the black
athletes’ golf ability by framing it as ‘sport intelligence’ they did worse
than white athletes, but when they judged the ability as ‘natural athletic
ability’ black athletes tended to do better than white athletes. The study implies
that the when it comes to performing sports task, white athletes internalized
their self worth more because they thought they are not physically as competent
as the blacks. Meanwhile, this happens to blacks or other minorities when they
face challenging tasks in an academic setting or questioned about their
intelligence (Stone et al., 1999).

Although there is a lot of research done
in stereotype threat, there are still many issues to be addressed in the
matter. In future research it would be interesting to see if stereotype threat
is alleviated from those people who grew up with white parents (adoptees). Or
even to demonstrate how adopters deal with such negative stereotype toward
their children. Assuming phenotypically the adopters are still connected to
their biological parents, it would be interesting to know whether or not their
looks effect their performance on a task when their background is made more
salient or do they related to their white American heritage more.

It will also be interesting if the
severity in stereotype threat among different minorities is different. As
discussed before, Asian- Americans may not face as much stereotype threat in an
academic setting, however, it would be interesting to see whether or not they
feel stereotype threat or if they are typically indifferent about it. It would
be intriguing to know if Asian Americans have the pressure of excelling
academically because of the stereotype. Also, as research suggests, since
African-Americans faces the most stereotype threat, it would be interesting to
see the various severity they face based on neighborhoods, SES, or education
level.  In addition, people who are up
the scale in the socioeconomic status have more of a less impact by the
stereotype threats because they come from families that are usually college
educated, and those of with higher education—so it would be interesting to
study minorities from upper middle-class societies and examine whether they
feel pressured under stereotype threat or how much of an issue they think of it
as. It is important to recruit all types of minorities and individual viewpoint
when seeking appropriate solutions.

Since stereotype threat has such a large
impact on the minorities, it is just as important to generate and propose
possible solutions to the cause. One of the main solutions can be performing
more and more research which includes the general population of diverse places,
and by doing so the awareness of stereotype threat will increase and spread. It
is also important to let the majority population know of such misjudgment, because
those who are fortunate enough to not face it may be blinded or have shallow
knowledge on how much stereotype threat can impact. Also, since higher
education is correlated with more knowledge and awareness about stereotypes, it
is important to push minorities in gaining a college education—especially since
the college population consists of majority white population.

Another possible solution can be offering
programs like Good et al. suggested (2003). For example: setting up school-wide
programs from a younger age to teach children of colors that intelligence is
not based on race or color. However, these types of initiative have to start
with children or young adults because, as applied psychology suggests, once an
idea of stereotype is internalized, it may be hard to get rid of. Also since there
are medical disparities because of stereotype threat, it may be helpful to
train physicians to not overlook these types of changes in behaviors of
minorities (Burgess, Warren, Phelan, Dovidio, & Van Ryn, 2010).

Overall, since stereotype threat is
derived from institutionalized dilemma of the self stemming from covert racism,
the aim today should be coming up with possible solutions to get rid of
stereotype threats in academic settings and push an attempt to overlook the
horrendous history behind it. It is important to develop self-identity because
it allows for people to be able to do their best in every aspect without having
to deal with the world thinks of them, but African Americans and Women fails to
have a sturdy self-identity because they still face the after effects of being
an oppressed minority group from various stereotypes passed on through history.

They always have the notion of not belonging because they feel forced to
conform to a society that was created to neglect them.