Date of Award

Spring 5-2021

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chair

Dr. Donald Sacco

Committee Chair School


Committee Member 2

Dr. Lucas Keefer

Committee Member 2 School


Committee Member 3

Dr. Emily Fyfe

Committee Member 3 School



Research demonstrates when math-based gender stereotypes are activated (i.e., men are better at math than women), women display comparatively poorer math performance than men, a phenomenon referred to as stereotype threat. The current thesis project evaluated two self-affirmation interventions designed to reduce 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 exploratory analyses revealed several notable findings. First, we were unable to replicate stereotype threat effects; women in the stereotype threat condition performed equivalently to women in the no threat condition. Though all individual comparisons did not reach conventional statistical significance, exploratory contrasts 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. More specifically, the performance of women in the relational affirmation condition was greater than the combined performance of women in the other three conditions. Though performance enhancement in the affirmation conditions was consistent with study hypotheses, the relative greater benefits of relational compared to verbal affirmation ran counter to study hypotheses. No conditional effects emerged for affect, performance regret, or interest in STEM and non-STEM careers. These findings demonstrate how self-affirmation, particularly relational affirmation, facilitates mathematics problem-solving, independent of stereotype threat activation.