Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 36, Issue 2, pp 130–142 | Cite as

When avoiding failure improves performance: Stereotype threat and the impact of performance goals

  • Aïna ChalabaevEmail author
  • Brenda Major
  • Philippe Sarrazin
  • François Cury
Original Paper


We examined the impact of inducing performance-avoidance and approach goals (versus no goal) on women’s math performance in stereotype threatening versus nonthreatening situations. Two experiments showed that inducing either stereotype threat (versus no-threat) or a performance-avoidance goal (versus no goal) alone led to decreased math performance. However, inducing both stereotype threat and a performance-avoidance goal increased women’s performance and challenge appraisals. These findings are consistent with the theory of regulatory fit. Performance and challenge appraisals increased when there was a fit between the motivation associated with stereotype threat (avoid failure) and the induced goal (avoid performing worse than others). Implications for stereotype threat, achievement goals and regulatory focus theories are discussed.


Stereotype threat Achievement goals Regulatory fit Avoidance Approach 



This research was supported by a Marie Curie fellowship from the European Commission. We wish to express our gratitude to Heidi Nyberg, Kathryn Chaimov, and Stacy Springmeyer for their help in collecting data.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Aïna Chalabaev
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Brenda Major
    • 1
  • Philippe Sarrazin
    • 2
  • François Cury
    • 4
  1. 1.University of CaliforniaSanta BarbaraUSA
  2. 2.University of GrenobleGrenobleFrance
  3. 3.Paris West University Nanterre La DéfenseNanterre cedexFrance
  4. 4.ISM CNRS Aix Marseille University and Toulon Var South UniversityGrenobleFrance

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