European Journal of Psychology of Education

, Volume 23, Issue 4, pp 439–458 | Cite as

Ian is intelligent but Leshaun is lazy: Antecedents and consequences of attributional stereotypes in the classroom



One explanation for the widening achievement gap in America and throughout Europe between ethnic minorities/immigrants, and Whites is the influence of cultural stereotypes on attributions made by both educators and students. This paper explores some factors that increase the likelihood that educators will consciously or unconsciously rely on stereotypes to disambiguate attributional judgments of students. Specifically, the fundamental drive to make attributions in educational settings combine with a norm and pressure for internality judgments in achievement- related domains. These pressures place an extra burden on educators to look for internal causes for student achievement. When that pressure is combined with cognitive overload, motivational barriers, status and hierarchy disparities, and students’ more salient group membership, stereotypes emerge as likely candidates for attributions. The psychological and motivational consequences of attributional stereotypes are discussed in terms of their effects on both educators and students as a function of the distinct attributional patterns implied by stereotypes.

Key words

Attributions Classroom discrimination Education Self-esteem Stereotypes 


Une explication de l’écart de plus en plus important entre la réussite des blancs et des minorités ethnique/émigrantes aux USA et en Europe tient dans l’influence des stéréotypes culturels concernant les attributions émises par les enseignants et les étudiants. Dans ce manuscrit, sont traités des facteurs qui augmentent la sensibilité des enseignants à se reposer, consciemment ou inconsciemment, sur les stéréotypes afin de lever l’ambiguïté du jugement attributionnel émis à l’égard des étudiants. Plus spécifiquement, la tendance fondamentale à émettre des inférences dans le contexte scolaire se double d’une norme et d’une pression aux jugements internes dans les domaines liés à la performance. Ces pressions conduisent les enseignants à rechercher des causes internes à la performance des étudiants. Lorsque cette pression se double d’une surcharge cognitive, de barrières motivationnelles, de disparités hiérarchiques, de différences de statut, et d’une appartenance groupale saillante des étudiants, les stéréotypes sont alors de bons candidats comme facteurs attributionnels. Les conséquences psychologiques et motivationnelles sur les enseignants et les étudiants sont discutées pour différents types de stéréotypes attributionnels.


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© Instituto Superior de Psicologia Aplicada, Lisbon, Portugal/ Springer Netherlands 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyDePaul UniversityUSA

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