Stereotype Threat and Survey Response Bias


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Virginia Tech


Stereotype threat is the threat of confirming a negative stereotype about a group with which a person identifies. Researchers have found that stereotype threat can result in underperformance in multiple domains, shifts in social behavior, and shifts in assessed implicit attitudes, the likelihood of which increases as an individual's concern about the domain of interest increases. According to theory, this threat can be "alleviated",thereby diminishing or eliminating its impact. In this project, over the course of two experiments, the impact of stereotype threat and stereotype threat-alleviation on explicit self-report measures are examined.

In experiment one, white college student participants were exposed (or not) to an on-line task intended to elicit race-based stereotype threat. Differences in reporting style (i.e., bias) between the two groups on self-reported measures of race-related attitudes were examined. It was hypothesized that the group exposed to stereotype threat would endorse lower racism and lower stereotypicality (i.e., stereotypic "White" behaviors, attitudes, adjectives, and beliefs). The data provided only partial support for the hypothesis - the threat group reported significantly less stereotypicality than the non threat group. However, the groups were not statistically different on measures of racism or race and social policy.

In experiment two, again examining white college students who participated on-line, a stereotype threat-alleviation task was added, and whether this diminished or removed bias was examined. It was hypothesized the threat group would endorse lower stereotypicality and racism than the non threat group and the group receiving the threat alleviation task. The findings from study one did not replicate in study two. Instead, contrary to predictions, across measures of racism and stereotypicality, it was the non threat group that consistently showed the lowest scores.

Potential explanations for these findings are offered, including the possibility of having eliciting stereotype threat, cognitive dissonance, or both for the threat and non threat groups via their filler task. Finally, implications for assessing, broaching, and reducing stereotype threat in clinical and research applications are also discussed.



stereotype threat, social identity, response bias, explicit attitudes, self-report, college students, racism, prejudice