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Addict Behav. 2010 Sep;35(9):834-9. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2010.04.004. Epub 2010 May 7.

Gender moderates the impact of stereotype threat on cognitive function in cannabis users.

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University at Albany, Department of Psychology, Albany, NY 12222, United States.


Research reveals mixed results for the effects of cannabis on cognitive functioning. These divergent results might stem from stereotype threat (ST), which occurs when individuals believe that a group to which they belong is inferior, resulting in poor test performance. Widespread media coverage of purported cannabis-related deficits in cognitive functioning may elicit ST among cannabis users, particularly among men, who may be more likely than women to identify with the cannabis-user stereotype. To investigate this hypothesis, cannabis users (30 male, 27 female) read a summary of research indicating either that cannabis produced deficits (ST condition), or that cannabis actually created no changes in cognitive functions. Participants then completed cognitive tests. Examination of the gender x condition interaction revealed significant results on 4 tests: the California Verbal Learning Test-II immediate recall task, the Controlled Oral Word Association Test for number of words generated and number of switches between clusters, and the Digit Symbol Substitution Task. Males exposed to ST performed worse on all tests compared to men not exposed to ST, while women exposed to ST performed better than women not exposed. These results suggest that cognitive deficits observed in male cannabis users may be attributed to ST rather than decreased functioning. Surprisingly, women in the ST condition scored higher than controls. Perhaps female users do not identify with the typical cannabis stereotype. This study highlights the importance of disconfirming relevant stereotypes prior to examination of the cognitive abilities of cannabis users.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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