At a time when earning a bachelor’s degree is becoming increasingly necessary for jobs that pay a living wage, college completion rates for marginalized populations continue to lag behind those of their non-marginalized counterparts. Scholars suggest that stereotype threat (ST) is partially responsible for these stubborn academic performance disparities. ST theory suggests that internalized distress associated with a negative stereotype concerning one’s social group can inhibit stereotyped students’ academic performance. The mechanisms responsible for this relationship between ST and poor performance have not been definitely established. As such, this dissertation tested a theoretical framework proposing that ST initiates a self-protective process, leading college students to fence their social identities by differentiating themselves from non-stereotyped others. This was predicted to mediate students’ sense of belonging on campus, perceived in-group norms, and performance on a difficult math test. Utilizing a mixed model randomized control trial design with 133 stereotyped college students, this study could not replicate findings of previous ST studies. The ST manipulation technique used in previous lab-based ST studies (stating a test is diagnostic of ability) did not induce a discernible ST in this naturalistic study. This study, however, is one of the first to find that social identity is malleable and predictive of students’ sense of belonging and perception of in-group norms. As stereotyped students felt less similar to other students, they felt less like they belonged on campus and believed their group would do more poorly in college. Furthermore, an intervention designed to normalize college-related struggles and worries significantly improved students’ test performance. These findings are discussed in relation to recently articulated oversights in ST research. To continue to inform ST’s real-world impact, future research should continue to use naturalistic settings to investigate the processes underlying interventions and social identity changes to further explain performance differences among college students.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. May 2020. Major: Educational Psychology. Advisors: Geoffrey Maruyama, Mark Snyder. 1 computer file (PDF); vi, 142 pages.
Pulling Back The Curtain On Stereotype Threat: Testing A Mediation Framework Of Identity Change And Belongingness.
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