While the effect of negative performance stereotypes on test-taking and in other domains is well documented, the study by social psychologist Robert J. Rydell and his colleagues in IU's Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences is the first to show that the effects might also be seen further upstream than once thought, when the skills are learned, not just performed.
"The effect on learning could be cumulative," says Rydell, whose research focuses on stereotype threat involving women and mathematics. "If women do not learn relatively simple skills early on, this could spell trouble for them later on when they need to combine a number of more simple skills in new, complicated ways to solve difficult problems. For example, if a young girl does not learn a relatively simple principle of algebra or how to divide fractions because she is experiencing threat, this may hurt her when she has to use those skills to complete problems on geometry, trigonometry, or calculus tests."
This reduced learning may ultimately hamper efforts to help women enter into careers in science and mathematics, where they are currently underrepresented.
The study, "Stereotype threat prevents perceptual learning," was published on Monday (July 26), in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition. Co-authors are Richard M. Shiffrin, Kathryn L. Boucher, Katie Van Loo and Michael T. Rydell, all from IU.
The study was designed to examine "attention and perceptual learning in a visual search," not mathematical learning specifically, because the tasks used in the experiments allowed researchers to easily differentiate between learning effects and performance effects. Through a series of experiments involving Chinese characters and color judgment tasks, the researchers were able to show that actual learning had not occurred in the group of women who had been reminded of the negative stereotypes involving women's math and visual processing ability. Instead of finding it difficult to express learning, which is a typical effect of stereotype threat, they had not learned the same skill that women in the control group, who had not been exposed to the negative stereotypes, had learned.
The women in the stereotype threat group appeared to try too hard to overcome the negative stereotype, ultimately searching for the characters in the experiment in a focused yet unproductive manner rather than letting the figures just "pop out," as they normally would have after some training.
"The results seem to fit with the view that the women under threat try harder to carry out the task, thereby persisting in effortful serial search throughout training, and failing to find and learn an alternative strategy that makes search easier and less effortful," the authors wrote.
"Women who are good at the skill they are performing are more likely to show stereotype threat because they have more invested in disproving the stereotype and are more distracted by the stereotype," Rydell said.
Rydell said he and his colleagues have conducted additional research specifically on mathematical learning and the results are forthcoming. They think the effect of stereotype threat on learning warrants more study by scientists and more attention by educators.
"(The present study) points to the importance of creating environments that reduce the impact of stereotype threat during mathematical skill acquisition by women," the authors concluded in their PNAS article. "If creating such an environment is not done, the learning deficits that result could well be cumulative, causing problems that continually worsen as development proceeds."
The study was supported by the National Science Foundation. The Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences is within IU's College of Arts and Sciences.
To speak with Rydell, contact Tracy James, 812-855-0084 and email@example.com. Eurekalert members can obtain a copy of the study at http://www.eurekalert.org/pio/pnas.php. A copy can be obtained by contacting PNASnews@nas.edu one soon will be available at http://www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1002815107.
Tracy James | EurekAlert!
Europe’s Demographic Future. Where the Regions Are Heading after a Decade of Crises
10.08.2017 | Berlin-Institut für Bevölkerung und Entwicklung
Scientists reveal source of human heartbeat in 3-D
07.08.2017 | University of Manchester
Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.
As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...
Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.
Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...
For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.
While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...
An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.
The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...
A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...
16.08.2017 | Event News
04.08.2017 | Event News
26.07.2017 | Event News
18.08.2017 | Life Sciences
18.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
18.08.2017 | Materials Sciences