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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2010 Dec;99(6):883-96. doi: 10.1037/a0021139.

The effect of negative performance stereotypes on learning.

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  • 1Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Indiana University, USA.

Erratum in

  • J Pers Soc Psychol. 2011 Apr;100(4):586.


Stereotype threat (ST) research has focused exclusively on how negative group stereotypes reduce performance. The present work examines if pejorative stereotypes about women in math inhibit their ability to learn the mathematical rules and operations necessary to solve math problems. In Experiment 1, women experiencing ST had difficulty encoding math-related information into memory and, therefore, learned fewer mathematical rules and showed poorer math performance than did controls. In Experiment 2, women experiencing ST while learning modular arithmetic (MA) performed more poorly than did controls on easy MA problems; this effect was due to reduced learning of the mathematical operations underlying MA. In Experiment 3, ST reduced women's, but not men's, ability to learn abstract mathematical rules and to transfer these rules to a second, isomorphic task. This work provides the first evidence that negative stereotypes about women in math reduce their level of mathematical learning and demonstrates that reduced learning due to stereotype threat can lead to poorer performance in negatively stereotyped domains.

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