Thursday, October 18, 2018

What is "Stereotype Threat Theory?"

If I had to venture a guess I would say that you have not heard of the concept of: “stereotype threat.” Until I ran across a recent study about it, I had not heard of it either.

The concept comes to us from the field of social psychology. You know about the pretend science of social psychology. Many of its research studies are valuable, but around half of them cannot be replicated. This means that they are driven more by ideology than by facts and evidence.

Once upon a time some social psychologists concocted stereotype threat theory to explain why boys did better at math than girls. Naturally, having had their minds polluted with politically correct ideas, they assumed that no difference in brain structure could account for this anomaly… though it is only an anomaly for those who believe that males and females are fundamentally the same. If they are the same, if there is no relevant difference between the sexes male dominance in math and in other STEM subjects must have been produced by patriarchal oppression. Teachers, even feminist teachers, have been persuaded that males are better at math. Thus, they have lower expectations for female students. The expectation differential explains why boys outperform girls in math.

As you see, this theory is an adjunct to notions of the social construction of gender and of the influence of self-esteem.

PsyPost has the story:

A psychological concept known as “stereotype threat” holds that the awareness of negative stereotypes can hamper women’s mathematics performance. The theory quickly gained popularity and has been used to explain why there are more men than women in mathematical fields.

But research has cast doubt on the stereotype threat theory. One such study, recently published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, failed to find evidence that stereotype threat significantly impaired women’s inhibitory control and math performance.

“My PhD research examined ‘stereotype threat’, which is a term coined by Steele and Aronson (1995). It refers to the finding that knowing about negative gender-related stereotypes (e.g., ‘women are bad at mathematics’) can have a detrimental effect on performance,” said study author Charlotte R. Pennington of the University of the West of England.

“I was inspired to conduct research into this topic because of my own personal experiences in mathematics at a young age; during secondary school, I believed I wasn’t very good at mathematics. This belief created a barrier in my mind whereby I’d see a mathematical problem and instantly switch off and find that I would not want to solve it.”

“In psychology, we call this a ‘fixed mindset’; I felt that my inability to perform well in mathematics was attributable to my gender. I’ve also always been passionate about education, and have a particular interest in understanding women’s underrepresentation and relative underperformance in STEM-related fields (i.e., Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics). I was fascinated by this social psychological theory that seemingly held the answers,” Pennington explained.

“The ‘answers’ appear to be more complex than I had originally hoped, however. My research has found mixed evidence for the theory of stereotype threat, and large-scale replication studies have sparked controversy over the robustness of this phenomenon.”

Of course, researchers believe that underrepresentation of women in STEM subjects is a problem that needs to be solved. And yet, women are overrepresented in non-STEM subjects-- especially at school. Doesn't this show that biological difference is real and not a problem... except for those who believe that ideology should define reality:

The underrepresentation of women in STEM fields is a global phenomenon. But if stereotype threat is not to blame, then what is?

“There is still a lot of debate regarding the extent to which gender differences persist in academic achievement, particularly for women in STEM-related subjects and men in English language education,” Pennington told PsyPost.

“However, our recent field research (i.e., working directly with schools and examining students’ performance) has consistently indicated that girls tend to outperform boys in the majority of school subjects, and that there appears to be little differences in their academic attitudes (i.e., mindset, academic self-efficacy, self-concept).

Good-bye, stereotype threat theory. Along with it, we should toss social construction theory in the trash basket of bad ideas.


Sam L. said...

The dearth of men in non-STEM fields is NOT a problem...

Ares Olympus said...

I see Wikipedia has an article, including a criticism section.

I recall there was a problematic talking barbie doll that said "Math class is tough!". Wow, 1992?

I also recall the black problems where academic achievement is seen as "acting white", but I guess Vox says it was a myth as well.

Dr. Irredeemable Dreg said...

Abigail Thompson, UC-Davis topologist focusing on 3-dimensional manifolds, is probably laughing her a** off. She's making progress on the Poincaré Conjecture, so she has a lot of balls (a little topology joke for math geeks) in the air. UCD alone has about 10 women on faculty.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...


NYT Hyperlinks!

Vox Hyperlinks!




Anonymous said...

Speaking of a developingstereotypical thought, can anyone point out the difference between the mafia and the current democrat party especially in Minnesota? I guess it comes with that tolerant attitude that resides there and has not cost anyone there life for now. This is not to ignore the actions of the politically oriented mafia, dare I say fascists, of the left.

Alter Kocker said...

Poincaré Conjecture was already solved, by the most stereotypical aspie jewish (still lives with his mother) russian math nerd ever.

Alter Kocker said...

most stereotypical MALE aspie jewish (still lives with his mother) russian math nerd ever.