Sex Roles

, Volume 47, Issue 3–4, pp 179–191 | Cite as

An Examination of Implicitly Activated, Explicitly Activated, and Nullified Stereotypes on Mathematical Performance: It's Not Just a Woman's Issue

  • Jessi L. Smith
  • Paul H. White


This study was designed to examine the different ways that stereotypes might become activated in testing situations and the effects this activation has on task performance. In Experiment 1, women undergraduates exposed to an explicitly activated stereotype (i.e., told men outperform women in mathematics) performed worse than women exposed to a nullified stereotype (i.e., told men and women perform at the same level in mathematics). The stereotype threat also was activated implicitly under “normal” conditions (i.e., just given the test with nothing else stated) such that performance in this condition was at the same (low) level as the explicitly activated threat. In Experiment 2, the results were replicated with White male undergraduates using the stereotype that “Asians are better than Whites” in mathematics. In addition, in a small field survey we found that this belief about ethnicity did occur spontaneously for White men in college calculus courses. Taken together, the results of these studies suggest that even under normal circumstances, math test situations may lead to nonoptimal performance for both stigmatized (women) and traditionally nonstigmatized (White men) group members. Implications for threat nullification techniques are discussed.

stereotype threat mathematics group processes motivation 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jessi L. Smith
    • 1
    • 2
  • Paul H. White
    • 1
  1. 1.University of UtahSalt Lake City
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyOhio State UniversityNewark

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