Stephanie Livingston–Psychologist

Tag: stereotype threat

Stereotype Threat

by on Jan.19, 2013, under performance anxiety treatment

Stereotype Threat—does being a minority affect your performance

Have you ever been the only girl in a math class of all boys and felt intimidated; or a black student in a predominately white college or university, or a white male competing in a basketball camp of mostly black males? If you have felt intimidated in any of these situations, you may have been a victim of “stereotype threat”, A concept developed by Claude Steele, a social psychologist at Stanford University. He found that stereotype threat, feeling pressure to perform in a given situation because you feel that you have been type cast, negatively affects performance. The girl in a math class of mostly boys may have learned to believe over the years that boys are better than girls in math. Or the black student may have internalized the belief that whites are smarter or are at least preoccupied with the idea that white students may view them in that way. And the white basketball player, like the movie title “White Men Can’t Jump” may feel intimidated by black basketball players who tend to dominate in this sport. In Steele’s ongoing research, he found that the individual who may be a victim of stereotype threat may not even be consciously aware that they are experiencing it. The problem with stereotyping in this case, is that it tends to have a negative effect on performance. The part of the brain needed to perform the task at hand, whether it is doing well on a math test or shooting a basketball gets drained by the focus on the effects of the stereotype; thereby hindering performance. You can imagine how stereotype threat can be manifested in everyday life in most areas such as business, education, sports and entertainment, and health.
What is the solution to stereotype threat, you might ask. Something as simple as writing a narrative about one’s values and why one hold’s these values prior to going into the stereotype situation, like taking a test, can improve performance significantly. Or, reminding yourself of your accomplishments or credentials prior to your performance, can also be helpful. Steele found that black students who had to check the race box prior to taking a test was enough to trigger stereotype threat. However, when students were allowed to do the narrative exercise before the test, they were able to counteract the effects of stereotype threat.
At our clinic, we help people counteract the effects of stereotype threat by: evaluating the individual to determine if they are experiencing stereotype threat and the type of stereotype threat. Different types of threat require different approaches. We will also rule out any mental disorders that may play a role (e.g., stress, anxiety disorders, depression) in underperformance. Subjective and objective measures, (eg, clinical interview, testing, stereotype threat scales, physiological measures) both pre and post treatment will be used. The goal is to Devise an individualized program to address the specific needs of each client.
Treatment protocols include a combination of (behavioral skills training, relaxation techniques, mental skills techniques, cognitive-behavioral therapy, biofeedback). The goal is to generalize these strategies to improve performance by applying these strategies to real world settings.
Contact us today for an appointment, if you want to improve your performance in work, school, health, business, sports, or entertainment. We have locations in Illinois and Indiana.
Taken from, Whistling Vivaldi, (Steele, PhD, Claude, 2010, W.W. Norton & Co, Inc.)

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