The art of stereotyping is something that we are introduced to as soon as we enter this world. Our young innocent minds are forced to conform and see things in accordance with the images painted by the society. The society sort of puts unwritten rules of what we should or shouldn’t do from a very young age all based on a generalized notion. We live in a world where if you were to ask someone some of the adjectives attributed to men, he or she would say that men are brave, powerful, independent, and authoritative. If u were to ask someone to do the same when it comes to women, he or she would describe them using such adjectives as polite, submissive, caring, and sentimental. It is such stereotyping that results in conflicts and discrimination based on gender and other factors like religion and ethnicity. This paper discusses the effects of stereotype threat on performance.
Stereotyping can be defined as giving an overgeneralized conclusion, mostly derogatory, based on the characteristics of another person. Stereotyping mainly focuses on aspects such as one’s religion, career, race, age and uses these aspects to draw unsubstantiated conclusions without conclusive evidence. It has been seen to cause great negative impact in the society today where some people are being sidelined and considered lesser beings just because of their race, religion or ethnic background (Steele, 2010). If the media is something to go by, then there is a clear evidence of the high number of cases of stereotype threat, where people from the minority fear facing prejudice at school, at work, or even in social places. Stereotype threat comes about when someone feels as if they are at a disadvantaged point because of a particular characteristic about them, and that this particular characteristic will lead to them being treated unfairly (Inzlicht & Schmader, 2012).
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African-American students have been in the limelight more often whenever the issue of stereotyping is involved. A recent study conducted at various colleges and universities in the United States showed that African-American students were performing poorly when they were compared to their white counterparts (William and Derek, 1998). The percentage of African-American students who completed school was also considerably lower. The authors further argued that, despite all this, the African-American students who did not get as much privilege regarding school selection, go on to perform well in their postgraduate programs as the other privileged individual. This then begs the question; does stereotype threat have an impact on one’s performance? Yes, it does. Vast research has been done to prove this fact and researchers have determined that black college students, female students as well as those coming from a minority ethnic group do affect their performance in standard tests such as the SATs and GRE. A study was conducted by a psychologist from Stanford, on students from different countries, and from his results, he concluded that stereotype threat greatly influences a child’s performance, especially if they believe that they are at a disadvantaged point (Gorlick, 2009).
The study further showed that if a black student and a white student took the same SAT and they scored the same points, the black child could have scored higher marks if only they did not feel like their performance will be undermined just because of their skin color (Gorlick, 2009). Studies conducted on female students, as well, went ahead to show that girls feel the same pressure especially when it comes to subjects that are considered to be ‘a boy’s thing’ such as mathematics and sciences. These pressures usually result in the girls not performing their best. The study goes ahead to show that in the absence of the stereotype threat, the girls would have performed very well in the tests, even better than some of their male counterparts (Nguyen, 2006)
The issue of stereotype threat has also spread to the workplaces whereby some employees feel inferior to others and fear speaking out their ideas just because they belong to a certain gender or race. This stereotype threat affects the performance of such workers in the sense that they will be less likely to aim for higher job positions in the organization. The issue of favoritism in work places is nothing new and the issue of prejudice has not been left behind either. Research done in workplaces shows that in environments where the male figure is more dominating, women feel threatened and are therefore reluctant to climb up the career ladder. They will be more resigned and less motivated to challenge their way up the organization (Robertson 2007). This may affect their work performance as they feel that no matter what they do, no one will consider them good enough just because of their gender.
The fight for autonomy among the minority in the United States of America is a journey that started a long time ago, and is one whose end is not in sight. Some of most audacious champions of human rights such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X spearheaded the fight for equality until their demise. It was a fight that cost the minority group a lot, and for some, even their lives. Though some of the rights that the movement championed have been achieved, for example, the rights to vote, minority groups in the US still face great stereotype threats. The day the world will stop acting as if being black, being a woman, or being from a minority group is a punishment or a curse making someone less worthy, is the day we can say we took at least one step towards equality.
Bowen, W. G., & Bok, D. C. (1998). The shape of the river: Long-term consequences of considering race in college and university admissions . Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press.
Gorlick, A. (2009). Stereotype threat harms female, minority performance.
Inzlicht, M., & Schmader, T. (2012). Stereotype threat: Theory, process, and application . New York, N.Y: Oxford University Press.
Nguyen, H.-H. D. (2006). Does stereotype threat differentially affect cognitive ability test performance of minorities and women? a meta-analytic review of experimental evidence.
Roberson, L., & Kulik, C. T. (2007). Stereotype threat at work. The Academy of Management Perspectives, 21 (2), 24-40.
Steele, C. (2010). Whistling Vivaldi: And other clues to how stereotypes affect us. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.