Wednesday, February 25, 2009

New study shows "stereotype threat" affects women and minorities on standardized tests

A new study by researchers from Stanford and Waterloo University, publication pending in Psychological Science but available here now, suggests that minority students and women under-perform on standardized tests like the SAT due to the phenomenon of self-fulfilling negative stereotypes.  Inside Higher Ed has a good summary of the study's findings:

[T]hese stereotyped groups actually perform better than non-stereotyped groups at the same level of performance when this threat is removed from the academic environment. 

When students are taking standardized tests such as the SAT and GRE, [one of the researchers]  pointed out, this threat is triggered in minute ways, such as asking a test taker to self-identify his or her race and gender prior to taking the test. He noted, however, that a test taker might not even have to be triggered in this explicit way, but might already be hyperaware of a stereotype 'impugning the ability of [his or her] ethnic or gender group.'

Using data from the SAT, the study found that “stereotype threat” reduced the scores of women on the math section by 19-21 points. This depressed score is especially significant since the overall gender gap on this section is 34 points. The study also found that 'stereotype threat' reduced the scores of African and Hispanic Americans by 39-41 points. The overall gaps between these groups and white students are 199 and 148 points respectively.

Hat tip to Inside Higher Ed.  I am the scholarship dude.

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