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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2009 Feb;96(2):288-304. doi: 10.1037/a0013463.

Stereotype threat reinterpreted as a regulatory mismatch.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Texas, Austin, TX, USA.


This research documents performance decrements resulting from the activation of a negative task-relevant stereotype. The authors combine a number of strands of work to identify causes of stereotype threat in a way that allows them to reverse the effects and improve the performance of individuals with negative task-relevant stereotypes. The authors draw on prior work suggesting that negative stereotypes induce a prevention focus and on other research suggesting that people exhibit greater flexibility when their regulatory focus matches the reward structure of the task. This work suggests that stereotype threat effects emerge from a prevention focus combined with tasks that have an explicit or implicit gains reward structure. The authors find flexible performance can be induced in individuals who have a negative task-relevant stereotype by use of a losses reward structure. The authors demonstrate the interaction of stereotypes and the reward structure of the task with chronic stereotypes and Graduate Record Examination math problems (Experiment 1), and with primed stereotypes and a category learning task (Experiments 2A and 2B). The authors discuss implications of this research for other work on stereotype threat.

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