The research focus of this project is the concept of social identity threat, i.e., academically at-risk minority students are concerned that they could be negatively judged in light of stereotypes of others about their racial group's intellectual ability. Social identity threat has been shown to impair performance of minorities in STEM. The research hypothesizes that social identity triggers a physiological threat response, which involves hormonal and immune-system reactions to threatening situations which can undermine a student's ability to engage in higher level cognitive processing required for success in learning.
The PIs propose studies over three years to: (1) examine the role of social psychological and neurobiological processes in understanding the racial achievement gap between White, Black and Latino college students in STEM educational attainment, (2) implement a social-psychological intervention approach to improve performance, (3) test a new theory-informed version of the intervention, (4) test an online intervention delivery system that could facilitate widespread national dissemination.
Using psychological and neurophysiological levels of analysis, this research will test: (1) how the threat of confirming negative stereotypes "gets under the skin" to impair cognitive functioning for minority students in STEM, and (2) whether a well-validated values-affirmation intervention works because it reduces the physiological stress of identity threat
The ultimate project goal is to provide a powerful, cost-effective, and easily-implemented intervention to reduce the effect of identity threat on minority college student academic functioning, thereby reducing the racial achievement gap in STEM fields and increasing and diversifying the pool of STEM workers.