Threatening the Heart and Mind of Gender Stereotypes: Can Imagined Contact Influence the Physiology of Stereotype Threat?
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Research shows that when a gender stereotype is made salient and the target of the stereotype is asked to perform in the stereotyped domain, targets of the stereotype often perform at a lower level compared to situations when the stereotype was not made salient (Spencer, Steele, & Quinn, 1999). Current models of stereotype threat show that increased physiological arousal and reduced working memory capacity partially explain this decrement in performance (Ben-Zeev, Fein, & Inzlicht, 2005; Schmader, Johns, & Forbes, 2008). Furthermore, the noticeable absence of female faculty and students in math and science departments at coed universities throughout the United States may increase the belief in gender stereotypes and discourage women from pursuing careers in these fields (Dasgupta & Asgari, 2004). Contact with counter-stereotypical exemplars, such as female science experts, decreases belief in gender stereotypes and increases womenâ s motivation to pursue careers in science (Stout, Dasgupta, Hunsinger, & McManus, 2011). Thus, the present study examined whether imagining an interpersonal interaction with a counter-stereotypic exemplar removes the physiological and performance effects of stereotype threat. However, the stereotype threat manipulation failed to elicit a strong stereotype threat effect on performance or physiology. Only reaction time and high frequency heart rate variability were sensitive to the stereotype threat induction. The imagination manipulation significantly attenuated the physiological effects of stereotype threat, whereas the reaction time effects were only marginally significant. Limitations and future directions for stereotype threat and imagined contact are discussed.
- Doctoral Dissertations