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I can (not) avoid doing badly : the effects of perceived source of a self-relevant stereotype on performance Dar Nimrod, Ilan

Abstract

The theory of stereotype threat states that activating self-relevant stereotypes can lead people to exhibit stereotype-consistent behavior. Stereotype threat most commonly arises under circumstances in which a negative self-relevant stereotype is applicable, the person's membership in the stereotyped group is made salient, and the person believes that their performance on a task will be evaluated. It seems that a certain element in stereotypes conveys an inescapable expected behavior to members of the stereotyped social group. Putting this assertion to test we manipulated the perceived inevitability of a stereotype-related group difference. Research on Nature vs. nurture causal attributions suggests that people perceive genetic causes to be more inescapable than experiential ones. Using a repeated measures design, causal attributions concerning gender-based differences in mathematical ability were manipulated by presetting either geneticbased or experientially-based explanations for the gender-related math performance differences, while the strength of the alleged differences was held constant. A third condition asserted that there are no gender differences in math. Additional variable tested was the presence of men's influence on women math performance. Results supported the hypothesis that the perceived cause for gender differences in math ability affects women's mathematical performance. Women who were exposed to a genetic explanation performed significantly worse than those exposed to experiential explanation. Men's presence did not significantly influence women's math performance. The results indicate one way in which genetic essentialism might affect people's behaviour. Several more implications, as well as future directions are discussed.

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