Stereotype threat is known as a situational predicament that prevents members of negatively stereotyped groups to perform up to their full ability. This review shows that the detrimental influence of stereotype threat goes beyond test taking: It impairs stereotyped students to build abilities in the first place. Guided by current theory on stereotype threat processes and boundary conditions, this review integrates findings on test taking, disidentification, and learning. A new three-stage account of stereotype threat is proposed that includes stereotype threat effects on both ability and performance. Implications for future research and practice are discussed.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
No further distinction between social identity threat and stereotype threat is made (see also, for example, Aronson and McGlone 2009).
Journals with the 20 highest impact factors in the Educational Psychology category of the “Thomson Reuters Journal Citations Reports” were inspected on May 25, 2012. In addition to the 13 articles from the 20 highest ranking journals, additional articles from other educational psychology journals may contribute to the total number of 369 papers in peer-reviewed journals.
Increased monitoring was also identified as a key mechanism of stereotype threat effects on proceduralized skills, such as golf-putting in a sample of expert golfers (Beilock et al. 2006).
Moreover, GPAs could be reduced due to other mechanisms (e.g., teacher expectancies, see Jussim and Harber 2005).
Appel, M. (2012a). Are heavy users of social media and videogames more computer literate? Computers & Education. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2012.06.004.
Appel, M. (2012b). Anti-immigrant propaganda by radical right parties and the intellectual performance of adolescents. Political Psychology. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9221.2012.00902.x.
Appel, M., Kronberger, N., Wiesner, A., & Batinic, B. (2007). Gender difference in technological sciences as self-fulfilling prophecies: Stereotype threat in e-learning. In K. Siebenhandl, M. Wagner, & S. Zauchner (Eds.), Gender in e-learning and educational games (pp. 85–89). Innsbruck: Studienverlag.
Appel, M., Kronberger, N., & Aronson, J. (2011). Stereotype threat impedes ability building: Effects on test preparation among women in science and technology. European Journal of Social Psychology, 41, 904–913.
Aronson, J. (2002). Improving academic achievement: Impact of psychological factors on education. San Diego: Academic Press.
Aronson, J., & Dee, T. (2012). Stereotype threat in the real world. In M. Inzlicht & T. Schmader (Eds.), Stereotype threat: Theory, processes, and application (pp. 264–279). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Aronson, J., & McGlone, C. (2009). Stereotype and social identity threat. In T. D. Nelson (Ed.), The handbook of prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination (pp. 153–178). New York: Guilford.
Aronson, J., & Steele, C. (2005). Stereotypes and the fragility of academic competence, motivation, and self-concept. In A. J. Elliot & C. S. Dweck (Eds.), Handbook of competence and motivation (pp. 436–456). New York: Guilford.
Aronson, J., Lustina, M. J., Good, C., Keough, K., Steele, C. M., & Brown, J. (1999). When white men can’t do math: Necessary and sufficient factors in stereotype threat. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 35, 29–46.
Aronson, J., Fried, C. B., & Good, C. (2002). Reducing the effects of stereotype threat on African American college students by shaping theories of intelligence. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 38, 113–125.
Beilock, S. L., Jellison, W. A., Rydell, R. J., McConnell, A. R., & Carr, T. H. (2006). On the causal mechanisms of stereotype threat: Can skills that don’t rely heavily on working memory still be threatened? Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 38, 1059–1071.
Beilock, S. L., Rydell, R. J., & McConnell, A. R. (2007). Stereotype threat and working memory: Mechanisms, alleviations, and spillover. Journal of Experimental Psychology. General, 136, 256–276.
Brodish, A. B., & Devine, P. G. (2009). The role of performance—avoidance goals and worry in mediating the relationship between stereotype threat and performance. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 45, 180–185.
Brown, R. P., & Day, E. A. (2006). The difference isn’t black and white: Stereotype threat and the race gap on Raven’s advanced progressive matrices. Journal of Applied Psychology, 91, 979–985.
Brown, R. P., & Josephs, R. A. (1999). A burden of proof: Stereotype relevance and gender differences in math performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 76, 246–257.
Brown, R. P., & Pinel, E. C. (2003). Stigma on my mind: Individual differences in the experience of stereotype threat. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 39, 626–633.
Cadinu, M., Maass, A., Rosabianca, A., & Kiesner, J. (2005). Why do women underperform under stereotype threat? Psychological Science, 16, 572–578.
Cheryan, S., Plaut, V. C., Davies, P., & Steele, C. M. (2009). Ambient belonging: How stereotypical environments impact gender participation in computer science. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 97, 1045–1060.
Cohen, G. L., & Garcia, J. (2008). Identity, belonging, and achievement: A model, interventions, implications. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 17, 365–369.
Cohen, G. L., Steele, C. M., & Ross, L. D. (1999). The mentor’s dilemma: Providing critical feedback across the racial divide. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 25, 1302–1318.
Cohen, G. L., Garcia, J., Apfel, N., & Master, A. (2006). Reducing the racial achievement gap: A social–psychological intervention. Science, 313, 1307–1310.
Cohen, G. L., Garcia, J., Purdie-Vaughns, V., Apfel, N., & Brzustoski, P. (2009). Recursive processes in self-affirmation: Intervening to close the minority achievement gap. Science, 324, 400–403.
Conger, D., & Long, M. C. (2010). Why are men falling behind? Gender gaps in college performance and persistence. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 627, 184–214.
Cooper, J. (2006). The digital divide: The special case of gender. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 22, 320–334.
Croizet, J., & Claire, T. (1998). Extending the concept of stereotype threat to social class: The intellectual underperformance of students from low socioeconomic backgrounds. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 24, 588–594.
Danaher, K., & Crandall, C. S. (2008). Stereotype threat in applied settings re-examined. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 38, 1639–1655.
Dar-Nimrod, I., & Heine, S. J. (2006). Exposure to scientific theories affects women's math performance. Science, 314, 435.
Davies, P. G., Spencer, S. J., Quinn, D. M., & Gerhardstein, R. (2002). Consuming images: How television commercials that elicit stereotype threat can restrain women academically and professionally. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28, 1615–1628.
Davies, P. G., Spencer, S. J., & Steele, C. M. (2005). Clearing the air: Identity safety moderates the effects of stereotype threat on women’s leadership aspirations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 88, 276–287.
Delisle, M.-N., Guay, F., Senécal, C., & Larose, S. (2009). Predicting stereotype endorsement and academic motivation in women in science programs: A longitudinal model. Learning and Individual Differences, 19, 468–475.
Devine, P. G., & Brodish, A. B. (2003). Modern classics in social psychology. Psychological Inquiry, 14, 196–202.
Forbes, C. E., & Schmader, T. (2010). Retraining attitudes and stereotypes to affect motivation and cognitive capacity under stereotype threat. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 99, 740–754.
Ford, T. E., Ferguson, M. A., Brooks, J. L., & Hagadone, K. M. (2004). Coping sense of humor reduces effects of stereotype threat on women’s math performance. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 30, 643–653.
Gehlbach, H. (2010). The social side of school: Why teachers need social psychology. Educational Psychology Review, 22, 349–362.
Gonzales, P. M., Blanton, H., & Williams, K. J. (2002). The effects of stereotype threat and double-minority status on the test performance of Latino women. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28, 659–670.
Good, C., Aronson, J., & Inzlicht, M. (2003). Improving adolescents’ standardized test performance: An intervention to reduce the effects of stereotype threat. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 24, 645–662.
Ho, A. K., & Sidanius, J. (2010). Preserving positive identities: Public and private regard for one’s ingroup and susceptibility to stereotype threat. Group Processes and Intergroup Relations, 13, 55–67.
Huguet, P., & Régner, I. (2007). Stereotype threat among schoolgirls in quasi-ordinary classroom circumstances. Journal of Educational Psychology, 99, 545–560.
Inzlicht, M., & Ben-Zeev, T. (2000). A threatening intellectual environment: Why females are susceptible to experiencing problem-solving deficits in the presence of males. Psychological Science, 11, 365–371.
Inzlicht, M., & Ben-Zeev, T. (2003). Do high-achieving female students underperform in private? The implications of threatening environments on intellectual processing. Journal of Educational Psychology, 95, 796–805.
Inzlicht, M., & Kang, S. K. (2010). Stereotype threat spillover: How coping with threats to social identity affects aggression, eating, decision making, and attention. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 99, 467–481.
Inzlicht, M., & Schmader, T. (Eds.). (2012). Stereotype threat: Theory, process, and application. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Johns, M., Schmader, T., & Martens, A. (2005). Knowing is half the battle: Teaching stereotype threat as a means of improving women’s math performance. Psychological Science, 16, 175–179.
Johns, M., Inzlicht, M., & Schmader, T. (2008). Stereotype threat and executive resource depletion: Examining the influence of emotion regulation. Journal of Experimental Psychology. General, 137, 691–705.
Johnson, H. J., Bernard-Brak, L., Saxon, T. F., & Johnson, M. K. (2012). An experimental study of the effects of stereotype threat and stereotype lift on men and women’s performance in mathematics. The Journal of Experimental Education, 80, 137–149.
Jordan, A. H., & Lovett, B. J. (2007). Stereotype threat and test performance: A primer for school psychologists. Journal of School Psychology, 45, 45–59.
Jussim, L., & Harber, K. D. (2005). Teacher expectations and self-fulfilling prophecies: Knowns and unknowns, resolved and unresolved controversies. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 9, 131–155.
Kahraman, B., & Knoblich, G. (2000). Stechen statt sprechen: Valenz und Aktivierbarkeit von Stereotypen über Türken. Zeitschrift für Sozialpsychologie, 31, 31–43.
Kaiser, C. R., Vick, S. B., & Major, B. (2006). Prejudice expectations moderate preconscious attention to cues that are threatening to social identity. Psychological Science, 17, 332–338.
Kalyuga, S. (2011). Cognitive load theory: How many types of load does it really need? Educational Psychology Review, 23, 1–19.
Keller, J. (2002). Blatant stereotype threat and women’s math performance: Self-handicapping as a strategic means to cope with obtrusive negative performance expectations. Sex Roles, 47, 193–198.
Kirschbaum, C., Wolf, O. T., May, M., & Wippich, W. (1996). Stress- and treatment-induced elevations of cortisol levels associated with impaired declarative memory in healthy adults. Life Sciences, 58, 1475–1483.
Koch, S. C., Müller, S. M., & Sieverding, M. (2008). Women and computers: Effects of stereotype threat on attribution of failure. Computers & Education, 51, 1795–1803.
Koenig, A. M., & Eagly, A. H. (2005). Stereotype threat in men on a test of social sensitivity. Sex Roles, 52, 489–496.
Kuiper, N. A., Martin, R. A., & Olinger, L. J. (1993). Coping humour, stress, and cognitive appraisals. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 25, 81–96.
Levy, B. (1996). Improving memory in old age through implicit self stereotyping. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 71, 1092–1107.
Leyens, J.-P., Yzerbyt, V., & Schadron, G. (1994). Stereotypes and social cognition. London: Sage.
Logel, C., Walton, G. M., Spencer, S. J., Iserman, E. C., von Hippel, W., & Bell, A. (2009). Interacting with sexist men triggers social identity threat among female engineers. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 96, 1089–1103.
Logel, C., Walton, G. M., Peach, J. M., Spencer, S. J., & Zanna, M. P. (2012). Harnessing latent ability: Implications of creating stereotype safe environments for college admissions. Educational Psychologist, 47, 42–50.
Major, B., & Schmader, T. (1998). Coping with stigma through psychological disengagement. In J. Swim & C. Stangor (Eds.), Prejudice: The target’s perspective (pp. 219–241). New York: Academic Press.
Major, B., Quinton, W. J., & McCoy, S. K. (2002). Antecedents and consequences of attributions to discrimination: Theoretical and empirical advances. In M. P. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (pp. 251–330). San Diego: Academic Press.
Mangels, J. A., Good, C., Whiteman, R. C., Maniscalco, B., & Dweck, C. S. (2012). Emotion blocks the path to learning under stereotype threat. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 7, 230–241.
Marx, D. M., & Roman, J. S. (2002). Female role models: Protecting women's math test performance. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28, 1183–1193.
McIntyre, R. B., Lord, C. G., Gresky, D. M., Ten Eyck, L. L., Frye, G. D. J., & Bond, C. F., Jr. (2005). A social impact trend in the effects of role models on alleviating women’s mathematics stereotype threat. Current Research in Social Psychology, 10, 116–136.
McKown, C., & Strambler, M. J. (2009). Developmental antecedents and social and academic consequences of stereotype-consciousness in middle childhood. Child Development, 80, 1643–1659.
McKown, C., & Weinstein, R. S. (2003). The development and consequences of stereotype consciousness in middle childhood. Child Development, 74, 498–515.
Miyake, A., Kost-Smith, L. E., Finkelstein, N. D., Pollock, S. J., Cohen, G. L., & Ito, T. A. (2010). Reducing the gender achievement gap in college science: A classroom study of values affirmation. Science, 330, 1234–1237.
Moe, A. (2012). Gender difference does not mean genetic difference: Externalizing improves performance in mental rotation. Learning and Individual Differences, 22, 20–24.
Nadler, J. T., & Clark, M. H. (2011). Stereotype threat: A meta-analysis comparing African Americans to Hispanic Americans. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 41, 872–890.
Nelson, T. D. (Ed.). (2009). The handbook of prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination. New York: Psychology Press.
Nguyen, H.-H. D., & Ryan, A. M. (2008). Does stereotype threat affect test performance of minorities and women? A meta-analysis of experimental evidence. Journal of Applied Psychology, 93, 1314–1334.
Nussbaum, A. D., & Steele, C. M. (2007). Situational disengagement and persistence in the face of adversity. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 43, 127–134.
Ong, C.-S., & Lai, J.-Y. (2006). Gender differences in perceptions and relationships among dominants of e-learning acceptance. Computers in Human Behavior, 22, 816–829.
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). (2009). Education at a glance, highlights. Paris: OECD Publishing.
Osborne, J. W. (2001). Testing stereotype threat: Does anxiety explain race and sex differences in achievement? Contemporary Educational Psychology, 26, 291–310.
Osborne, J. W. (2006). Gender, stereotype threat and anxiety: Psychophysiological and cognitive evidence. Journal of Research in Educational Psychology, 8, 109–138.
Osborne, J. W. (2007). Linking stereotype threat and anxiety. Educational Psychology, 27, 135–154.
Osborne, J. W., & Jones, B. (2011). Identification with academics and motivation to achieve in school: How the structure of the self influences academic outcomes. Educational Psychology Review, 23, 131–158.
Osborne, J. W., & Walker, C. (2006). Stereotype threat, identification with academics, and withdrawal from school: Why the most successful students of colour might be most likely to withdraw. Educational Psychology, 26, 563–577.
Paas, F., Renkl, A., & Sweller, J. (2003). Cognitive load theory and instructional design: Recent developments. Educational Psychologist, 38, 1–4.
Quinn, D. M., & Spencer, S. J. (2001). The interference of stereotype threat with women’s generation of mathematical problem-solving strategies. Journal of Social Issues, 57, 55–71.
Roberson, L., Deitch, E. A., Brief, A. P., & Block, C. J. (2003). Stereotype threat and feedback seeking in the workplace. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 62, 176–188.
Ryan, K. E., & Ryan, A. M. (2005). Psychological processes underlying stereotype threat and standardized math test performance. Educational Psychologist, 40, 53–63.
Rydell, B. J., McConnell, A. R., & Beilock, S. L. (2009). Multiple social identities and stereotype threat: Imbalance, accessibility, and working memory. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 96, 949–966.
Rydell, R. J., Rydell, M. T., & Boucher, K. L. (2010). The effect of negative performance stereotypes on learning. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 99, 883–896.
Rydell, R. J., Shiffrin, R., Boucher, K. L., Van Loo, K., & Rydell, M. T. (2010). Stereotype threat prevents perceptual learning. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107, 14042–14047.
Sackett, P. R., & Ryan, A. M. (2012). Concerns about generalizing stereotype threat research findings to operational high-stakes testing. In M. Inzlicht & T. Schmader (Eds.), Stereotype threat: Theory, processes, and application (pp. 249–263). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
Sackett, P. R., Hardison, C. M., & Cullen, M. J. (2004). On interpreting stereotype threat as accounting for African American-White differences on cognitive tests. American Psychologist, 59, 7–13.
Schmader, T. (2002). Gender identification moderates stereotype threat effects on women’s math performance. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 38, 194–201.
Schmader, T. (2010). Stereotype threat deconstructed. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 19, 14–18.
Schmader, T., & Johns, M. (2003). Converging evidence that stereotype threat reduces working memory capacity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85, 440–452.
Schmader, T., Johns, M., & Forbes, C. (2008). An integrated process model of stereotype threat effects on performance. Psychological Review, 115, 336–356.
Schoofs, D., Wolf, O. T., & Smeets, T. (2009). Cold pressor stress impairs performance on working memory tasks requiring executive functions in healthy young men. Behavioral Neuroscience, 123, 1066–1075.
Seibt, B., & Förster, J. (2004). Stereotype threat and performance: How self-stereotypes influence processing by inducing regulatory foci. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 87, 38–56.
Sekaquaptewa, D., & Thompson, M. (2002). The differential effects of solo status on members of high- and low-status groups. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28, 694–707.
Shih, M., Pittinsky, T. L., & Ambady, N. (1999). Stereotype susceptibility: Identity salience and shifts in quantitative performance. Psychological Science, 10, 80–83.
Smith, J. L. (2004). Understanding the process of stereotype threat: A review of mediational variables and new performance goal directions. Educational Psychology Review, 16, 177–206.
Smith, J. L., Sansone, C., & White, P. H. (2007). The stereotyped task engagement process: The role of interest and achievement motivation. Journal of Educational Psychology, 99, 99–114.
Spencer, S. J., Steele, C. M., & Quinn, D. M. (1999). Stereotype threat and women’s math performance. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 35, 4–28.
Stangor, C., Carr, C., & Kiang, L. (1998). Activating stereotypes undermines task performance expectations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 1191–1197.
Steele, C. M. (1992). Race and schooling of black Americans. The Atlantic Monthly, 269, 68–78.
Steele, C. M. (1997). A threat in the air: How stereotypes shape intellectual identity and performance. American Psychologist, 52, 613–629.
Steele, C. M., & Aronson, J. (1995). Stereotype threat and the intellectual test performance of African-Americans. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69, 797–811.
Steele, C. M., Spencer, S. J., & Aronson, J. (2002). Contending with images of one’s group: The psychology of stereotype and social identity threat. In M. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology. San Diego: Academic Press.
Stone, J. (2002). Battling doubt by avoiding practice: The effects of stereotype threat on selfhandicapping in white athletes. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28, 1667–1678.
Stone, J., Lynch, C. I., Sjomeling, M., & Darley, J. M. (1999). Stereotype threat effects on black and white athletic performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77, 1213–1227.
Stricker, L. J., & Ward, W. C. (2004). Stereotype threat, inquiring about test takers’ ethnicity and gender, and standardized test performance. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 34, 665–693.
Sweller, J. (1988). Cognitive load during problem solving: Effects on learning. Cognitive Science, 12, 257–285.
Sweller, J., van Merriënboer, J. J. G., & Paas, F. (1998). Cognitive architecture and instructional design. Educational Psychology Review, 10, 251–296.
Taylor, V. J., & Walton, G. M. (2011). Stereotype threat undermines academic learning. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 37, 1055–1067.
van Gog, T., Paas, F., & Sweller, J. (2010). Cognitive load theory: Advanced in research on worked examples, animations, and cognitive load measurement. Educational Psychology Review, 22, 375–378.
Walton, G. M., & Cohen, G. L. (2007). A question of belonging: Race, social fit, and achievement. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92, 82–96.
Walton, G. M., & Cohen, G. L. (2011). A brief social-belonging intervention improves academic and health outcomes of minority students. Science, 331, 1147–1151.
Walton, G. M., & Spencer, S. J. (2009). Latent ability: Grades and test scores systematically underestimate the intellectual ability of negatively stereotyped students. Psychological Science, 20, 1132–1139.
Wicherts, J. M. (2005). Stereotype threat research and the assumptions underlying analysis of covariance. American Psychologist, 60, 267–269.
World Economic Forum (WEF) in collaboration with The Boston Consulting Group. (2011). Global talent risk—seven responses. Geneva: WEF.
Wraga, M., Helt, M., Jacobs, E., & Sullivan, K. (2007). Neural basis of stereotype-induced shifts in women’s mental rotation performance. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 2, 12–19.
Yeung, N. C. J., & von Hippel, C. (2008). Stereotype threat increases the likelihood that female drivers in a simulator run over jaywalkers. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 40, 667–674.
Zwick, R. (2002). Fair game? The use of standardized admissions tests in higher education. New York: Routledge.
The authors would like to thank Bernad Batinic for helpful comments and suggestions.
About this article
Cite this article
Appel, M., Kronberger, N. Stereotypes and the Achievement Gap: Stereotype Threat Prior to Test Taking. Educ Psychol Rev 24, 609–635 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10648-012-9200-4
- Stereotype threat
- Achievement gap