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Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 2006 Aug;32(8):1059-71.

On the causal mechanisms of stereotype threat: can skills that don't rely heavily on working memory still be threatened?

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  • 1Department of Psychology, The University of Chicago, IL 60637, USA.


Recent work suggests that stereotype threat (ST) harms performance by reducing available working memory capacity. Is this the only mechanism by which ST can occur? Three experiments examined ST's impact on expert golf putting, which is not harmed when working memory is reduced but is hurt when attention is allocated to proceduralized processes that normally run outside working memory. Experiment 1 showed that well learned golf putting is susceptible to ST. Experiments 2 and 3 demonstrated that giving expert golfers a secondary task eliminates ST-induced impairment. Distracting attention away from the stereotype-related behavior eliminates the harmful impact of negative stereotype activation. These results are consistent with explicit monitoring theories of choking under pressure, which suggest that performance degradation can occur when too much attention is allocated to processes that usually run more automatically. Thus, ST alters information processing in multiple ways, inducing performance decrements for different reasons in different tasks.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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