Comparing the Efficiacy of Two Forms of Self-Affirmation to Reduce Stereotype Threat Effects On Women's Math Performance

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Research demonstrates that when math-based gender stereotypes are activated (e.g., men are better at math than women), women display comparatively poorer math performance than men, a phenomenon referred to as stereotype threat. We evaluated the effectiveness of two forms of self-affirmation in reducing the effects of stereotype threat on women’s math performance. Participants completed a math test under one of four conditions: control (no explicit stereotype activation), stereotype threat (activation of gender performance stereotype), or stereotype threat combined with one of two self-affirmation manipulations. Women in the affirmation conditions either read about women’s greater verbal or relational ability and were asked to write about why the trait is important to their self-concept. No omnibus effect of condition emerged though follow-up analyses revealed several notable findings. While we were unable to replicate stereotype threat effects, contrast analyses revealed that the combined performance of women in the two affirmation conditions was greater than the combined performance of women in the two no-affirmation conditions. Women in the relational affirmation condition performed descriptively greater than the combined performance of women in the other three conditions. These findings demonstrate how self-affirmation, particularly relational affirmation, may facilitate women’s mathematics problem-solving, independent of stereotype threat activation.

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Journal of STEM Education Research

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