Shielding Students From Stereotypes Helps Way More Than We Thought

We all know that negative stereotypes exist and that as a result, people may be discriminated against or denied access to resources without justification.

But there’s another disturbing effect that often goes unnoticed. It turns out that “stereotype threat,” or simply knowing that others view you as a negative stereotype, may impair your academic performance.

Scientists have long known about psychological exercises that can reduce the effects of “stereotype threat,” but now it seems that such exercises not only benefit those experiencing this, but also the people around them.

New research suggests that when students who are vulnerable to being stereotyped complete exercises that cause them to reflect on their own personal values, they perform better in class — and so do other students around them, even if those other students don’t complete the self-reflection tasks themselves.

It’s unclear how an entire classroom can benefit from just a few students taking moments to self-reflect, but the researchers are excited to further study this question, Joseph Powers, a psychological scientist at Stanford University and lead author of the research, told The Huffington Post.

He said it’s possible that the other students in the classroom felt motivated to perform better when they saw that their classmates’ grades improved. Or perhaps the improvement in grades of some students allowed teachers to focus more time on other students who needed more attention to learn.

“This research suggests that psychological processes go beyond the individual,” Powers said. “Protecting people from negative stereotype threats benefits them, and these less threatened people benefit their entire group. As a field concerned with social change we could gain a lot by considering these collective effects when we measure the impact of experiments and social programs.”

The researchers analyzed data from two previous studies conducted on 550 seventh-graders, —> Read More