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In a first study (Steele and Aronson, 1995(1)) 117 Black and White university students (both male and female) had to complete a verbal test along with three anagram problems.
Before they performed this test, participants were randomly assigned to hear one of three frames for the task. >Stereotype threat/Aronson/Steele.
1) In the “diagnostic test” (DT) condition, participants learned that the study concerned ‘various personal factors involved in performance on problems requiring reading and verbal reasoning abilities’ (p. 799). Feedback would be provided that ‘may be helpful to you by familiarizing you with some of your strengths and weaknesses’ (1995, p. 799) in verbal problem solving. Test difficulty was justified as a means of providing ‘a genuine test of your verbal abilities and limitations so that we might better understand the factors involved in both’ (p. 799). The assumption underpinning this condition is that any reminder of intellectual testing would trigger reminders of the racial stereotypes about intellectual ability among Black participants that would undermine their performance.
2) Two “Non-diagnostic tests” (ND) were designed to neutralize these processes by
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framing the purpose of the study as a way to better understand the ‘psychological factors involved in solving verbal problems’ (p. 799).
a) Feedback would be provided to familiarize participants ‘with the kinds of problems that appear on tests [they] may encounter in the future’ (p. 799).
b) The challenging nature of the problems was justified in terms of a research focus on difficult verbal problems in the non-diagnostic only condition and on giving ‘highly verbal people ... a mental challenge’ (p. 799) in the non-diagnostic challenge (NDC) condition.
Results: Analyses of the performance revealed only preliminary evidence in support of the theory. Focused analyses just of Black participants’ performance suggested that after controlling for SAT scores, Black students performed significantly worse on the test in the diagnostic condition than in either of the two non-diagnostic conditions. In comparison, performance for White students was relatively unaffected by the way the task was described. However, the critical statistical test of the race by test description interaction was not significant, p < .19.
A second study sought to replicate the effect and examine the role of anxiety in explaining these performance impairments. Twenty Black and 20 White female participants were assigned to the same non-diagnostic and diagnostic test frame conditions used in Study i and spent 25 minutes solving the same 30-item GRE test used in the prior study. Participants also self-reported their anxiety levels. In this study, the predicted interaction was significant: controlling for verbal SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test) scores, Black participants in the diagnostic test frame condition solved fewer items correctly, were less accurate on the questions they completed, completed fewer problems, and tended to be slower than participants in all other conditions. There were no differences between conditions in anxiety, however.
Study 3 was designed to test three implications of the theory: that Black students taking a diagnostic (vs. non-diagnostic) test would
(a) show increased activation of negative racial stereotypes and self-doubt,
(b) distance themselves from Black stereotypes, and
(c) show a tendency to self-handicap by making pre-emptive excuses for poor performance.
35 Black and 33 White students were randomly assigned to a diagnostic test frame, a non-diagnostic test frame or a control condition where participants completed he critical dependent measure without expecting to take a test of any sort. Test performance was not assessed.
Stereotype avoidances was assessed by having participants rate a series of activities and personality traits, some of which were related to Black stereotypes.
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Results: Results from this study provided evidence that anticipating performance on a diagnostic test had a host of psychological implications for Black but not for White students. Controlling for verbal SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test) scores, Black participants anticipating a diagnostic test were more likely than Blacks in the other conditions (and more likely than Whites in the diagnostic condition) to complete word fragments with race-related (…) and self-doubt-related (…) words. They were also significantly more likely to avoid endorsing stereotypic activities and traits.
In a fourth study half of the participants were required to indicate their race while the other half were not.
Result: Black participants in the race prime condition answered significantly fewer items correctly than those in all other conditions (again controlling for prior SAT score). They also seemed to approach the questions more methodically in the race prime condition — completing fewer items, avoiding guesses, but still performing somewhat less accurately. There were no differences found for reported effort and performance estimates, but a follow-up study reported in the discussion section suggested that priming race might have elevated anxiety for Black compared with White participants.
Interpretation/Steele/Aronson: having their abilities tested reminds Black students of negative racial stereotypes and motivates them to distance themselves from them. They might be plagued by greater feelings of self-doubt (and perhaps anxiety) and seek to self-handicap for potentially poor performance.
1. Steele, C.M. and Aronson, J. (1995) ‘Stereotype threat and the intellectual test performance of African-Americans’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69: 797—811.
Toni Schmader and Chad Forbes, “Stereotypes and Performance. Revisiting Steele and Aronson’s stereotypes threat experiments”, in: Joanne R. Smith and S. Alexander Haslam (eds.) 2017. Social Psychology. Revisiting the Classic Studies. London: Sage Publications_____________Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
|Aronson, Joshua M.
S. Alexander Haslam
Joanne R. Smith
Social Psychology. Revisiting the Classic Studies London 2017