Despite considerable efforts to increase the representation of women and members of racial minorities in STEM disciplines, gender and race gaps persist. Academic stereotypes have been implicated in contributing to these gaps in several ways;the current research is designed to better understand how stereotypes shape children's expectancies for future success and valuing of specific academic domains.
Aims of the proposed research are to test competing hypotheses about reasons for age, race, and gender differences in explicit race and gender stereotypes and to examine the relative importance of implicit and explicit stereotypes in predicting the motivational beliefs and behaviors of Black and White youth. If funded, this small project will lay the foundation for a larger longitudinal study examining the development of implicit and explicit academic stereotypes in Black and White youth. Three hundred White and African American youth from Grades 3, 6, and 9 will participate. The sample will be balanced on grade level, gender, and race. Building on new research in developmental and social psychology, the investigators will measure stereotypes both explicitly (using self-report measures) and implicitly (using cognitive tasks that do not require self-reports). Implicit measures will allow us to capture stereotypic thought processes that may operate outside awareness or beyond intentional control. By comparing implicit and explicit stereotypes, we aim to understand at what age's academic stereotypes begin to come automatically to mind, and when youth are willing and able to express versus reject these stereotypes. We will then be able to test hypotheses about age, race, and gender differences in stereotype reports, hoping to clarify inconsistent findings of earlier research. Students will also complete measures of academic self- concept, task interest, causal attributions, and domain-specific (i.e., English, science, and math) academic engagement and teachers will provide ratings of students'domain-specific engagement. Our tests of hypotheses about the relations between children's emerging stereotypes and their motivational beliefs and behaviors will enhance theory about ways that stereotypes lead some students to opt out of advanced classes in STEM disciplines and integrate the large literature on implicit social cognition with well-established theories of the development of achievement motivation. Thus, this project will shed light on the role that these aspects of implicit social cognition play in shaping group differences in achievement in STEM disciplines and identify new targets for interventions, potentially having a major impact on understanding the social dimensions of children's academic development.
Gender and race gaps persist in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers within the United States. The under-achievement of women and members of racial/ethnic minority groups in STEM areas causes a substantial economic loss to the United States each year and for many of these individuals, leads to lower earnings and lower life satisfaction, with potential negative repercussions for physical and emotional health. The purpose of the proposed research is to investigate the development of stereotypes about academic ability and the role these may play in leading girls and ethnic minority youth to turn away from STEM areas.