Prior work on stereotype threat (see Steele, Spencer, & Aronson, 2002, for a review) suggests that the stress of being targeted by negative stereotypes can cause stigmatized individuals to perform more poorly on complex cognitive tasks when anything is done to remind them of their membership in a negatively stereotyped group. Although research has established the generalizability of these stereotype threat effects, a precise and integrated model of the processes by which negative stereotypes interfere with performance is still needed. This application draws on existing literatures examining how stress impacts cognitive processing and outlines a theoretical model that integrates cognitive, physiological, and affective processes that mediate stereotype threat effects on test performance by reducing an individual's working memory capacity. This model proposes that negative stereotypes reduce performance in testing situations because they present the individual with inconsistent views about the self that induce, a) cognitive processing in an attempt to reconcile the inconsistency, b) a physiological stress response involving increased stress hormones and sympathetic activation, and c) attempts to suppress felt anxiety. Each of these processes is hypothesized to have a negative effect on an individual's working memory capacity, a cognitive process integral to any complex mental task. The results of three preliminary experiments are reported to provide evidence that working memory capacity is a key mediator of stereotype threat effects on performance. The 11 experiments that are proposed will expand upon these findings to identify the processes by which stereotype threat interferes with working memory capacity and performance. A significant impact of the present research is that in gaining a better understanding of the stress-related processes that are affected by stereotype threat, it becomes more feasible to develop strategies that will enable individuals to cope successfully with social stigma. ? ?

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
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Social Psychology, Personality and Interpersonal Processes Study Section (SPIP)
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Otey, Emeline M
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University of Arizona
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Zhang, Shen; Schmader, Toni; Hall, William M (2013) L'eggo My Ego: Reducing the Gender Gap in Math by Unlinking the Self from Performance. Self Identity 12:
Forbes, Chad E; Schmader, Toni (2010) Retraining attitudes and stereotypes to affect motivation and cognitive capacity under stereotype threat. J Pers Soc Psychol 99:740-54
Schmader, Toni; Forbes, Chad E; Zhang, Shen et al. (2009) A metacognitive perspective on the cognitive deficits experienced in intellectually threatening environments. Pers Soc Psychol Bull 35:584-96
Johns, Michael; Inzlicht, Michael; Schmader, Toni (2008) Stereotype threat and executive resource depletion: examining the influence of emotion regulation. J Exp Psychol Gen 137:691-705
Schmader, Toni; Johns, Michael; Forbes, Chad (2008) An integrated process model of stereotype threat effects on performance. Psychol Rev 115:336-56
Forbes, Chad E; Schmader, Toni; Allen, John J B (2008) The role of devaluing and discounting in performance monitoring: a neurophysiological study of minorities under threat. Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci 3:253-61
Schmader, Toni; Whitehead, Jessica; Wysocki, Vicki H (2007) A Linguistic Comparison of Letters of Recommendation for Male and Female Chemistry and Biochemistry Job Applicants. Sex Roles 57:509-514