Stereotyping Impacts on Social Interaction Thesis

Excerpt from Thesis :

In the current set of studies, we examine whether physiological arousal is a mediator of this effect. According to the Yerkes-Dodson (1908) theory of physiological arousal, performance is optimal at intermediate levels of arousal and decreases when arousal is either low or high, resulting in an inverted-U shaped function. We propose that stereotype threat may interfere with performance by leading to arousal that exceeds an optimal level." (Inzlicht & Ben-Zeev, and Fein, 2002) it is additionally stated in the report of the findings of this study that it is likely that arousal has an important role as a mediator of stereotype threat. Women's performance deficits in the presence of men were attenuated when women were given an opportunity to misattribute their arousal to an external source. When arousal was "removed," by misattribution to a benign source, women were less likely to experience impairments in performance. Furthermore, far from exhibiting performance deficits, women who were in the minority actually showed a trend for performance surfeits in the misattribution condition. That is, they tended to do better on the math test than did minority females not given the opportunity to misattribute their arousal. Although this difference was not significant, it does suggest a trend that future research may revisit. By decreasing the heightened arousal experienced by women in the minority condition, the misattribution may have reduced their arousal closer to optimal levels. Women in the same-sex conditions should not have been as aroused, so it is conceivable that any reduction in arousal caused by misattribution may have dropped their arousal to sub-optimal levels, causing a slight decline." (Inzlicht & Ben-Zeev, and Fein, 2002)

Findings in the study reported by Inzlicht and Ben-Zeev are stated to support "the prediction that cues in the environment, such as gender-composition, give rise to heightened arousal, which in turn, mediate stereotype threat. In experiment 1, performance deficits associated with stereotype threat were attenuated when females were given an opportunity to misattribute their arousal to an external source. When female participants in our study were outnumbered by males, they suffered impairments in performance. When they could misattribute their arousal to the subliminal noise, however, they exhibited no performance deficits. In Experiment 2, we found a cross-over interaction between identification with mathematics and threat. When female participants identified with the threatened math domain, they experienced performance decrements in the minority environment. When they were not identified with math, in contrast, they actually experienced problem-solving surfeits in the same minority environment. Taken together, both of these experiments suggest that arousal may have an important role as a mediator of threatening intellectual environments." (Inzlicht & Ben-Zeev, and Fein, 2002) Results of the study reported by Inzlicht & Ben-Zeev hold that stereotype threat has arousal properties and that this has been indicated due to:

1) Recent research examining the role of stereotype threat in the high incidence of high blood pressure among African-Americans indicates that threatening intellectual environments may be stressful Black participants who experienced threat had blood pressure that rose faster and remained higher than non-threatened Black participants or White participants in any condition. Interestingly, although blood pressure was affected by the threat manipulation, actual test scores were not: Black participants scored as well as White participants in both threat and non-threat conditions. On the face of it, it appears that the threat manipulation was not successful; however, an alternative explanation that is in line with the present results is possible. Perhaps the manipulation was indeed successful, but participants failed to be impaired by it because they attributed their arousal to being hooked up to the electrocardiograph;

2) in another study Stone et al. (1999)."..found that White participants performed worse on an athletic task when the stereotype about Black athletic superiority was made salient. This effect, however, was attenuated once participants were asked to monitor the effect of the lab space on their performance -- giving them an opportunity to misattribute their arousal. Although not central to either line of research, these two sets of findings suggest that leading participants to misattribute their arousal -- by focusing on an electrocardiograph or the effects of a lab space -- may have reduced the negative effects of stereotype threat on threatened individuals' performance. (Inzlicht & Ben-Zeev, and Fein, 2002)

Inzlicht & Ben-Zeev states that this pattern of results."..adds support to the idea that arousal may play a mediating role in stereotype threat." (Inzlicht & Ben-Zeev, and Fein, 2002) Stated as other mediators of stereotype threat are those as follows:

1) distraction;

2) expectation;

3) underperformance;

4) self-consciousness. (Inzlicht & Ben-Zeev, and Fein, 2002)

It is possible that these distracters are activated due to arousal which leads to performance impairments. Inzlicht & Ben-Zeev summarize by stating that stereotype threat may potentially."..interfere with performance in a variety of ways: by causing an arousal that lowers performance, by diverting attention onto task-irrelevant worries, or by fostering lower performance expectations. Arousal appears to be involved in mediation, but how it is involved -- be it through its association distracters or expectations -- is still unknown." (Inzlicht & Ben-Zeev, and Fein, 2002)

The work entitled: "Case Study Scenario: It Depends on the Lens" states that there are effective methods available for coping with stereotypes and that those include the underlying principle which is to "disrupt the tendency to use stereotypes as cognitive shortcuts. Strategies and solutions are stated to include: (1) devote adequate time; (2) Avoid premature ranking of the applicants; (3) Critically analyze supporting materials (recommendation letters, teaching evaluations, research statements); (4) Read candidates work rather than relying solely on support materials; (5) Be accountable -- be prepared to explain your decisions and rankings; (6) Be transparent -- what are the criteria, is it the same for men and women, is it the right criteria?; (7) Structure diverse groups and allow for maximum participation; (8) Think about how the job ad and descriptions might impact the applicant pool and perceived fit of the candidates; and (9) Consider using a Candidate Evaluation Tool." (Cornell University, nd)

The work of Ford (1997) entitled: "Effects of Stereotypical Television Portrayals of African-American on Person Perception" states that media portrayals of African-Americans have been show "to increase the likelihood that whites will make negative social perception judgments of an African-American." (Ford, 1997) in fact, among the many studies reported that focus on stereotyping and its affect, stereotyping is just as diverse as population that is ultimately served by the psychological profession.


No group is really immune from stereotyping and there are many various forms of stereotyping that are likely to arise and surface including stereotyping of Muslims, African-Americans, Whites, Hispanics, African-American individuals and including those of the male and female gender. Stereotyping has been demonstrated in this study to be pervasive across all aspects of daily life and to have a negative affect on those who are stereotypes due to effectively minimizing the individual within the stereotyping of their personality. (Ford, 1997)


Ben-Zeev, T., Inzlicht, M. And Fein, S. (2002) What is Stereotype Threat: An Investigations of the Mediating role of Arousal in threatening intellectual environment. Arousal and Stereotype threat. 16 Jan 2002. Online available at,_2002.htm

Case Study Scenario: It Depends on the Lens (nd) Cornell University. Online available at

Ford, T.E. (1997) Effects of stereotypical television portrayals of African-Americans on person perception. Personality and Social Psychology Quarterly, 60, 266-275

Gilbert, Sarah Jane (2006) Manly Men, Oil Platforms and Breaking Stereotypes. Harvard Business School 27 Nov 2006. Working Knowledge.

Grossman, R.W., Kim, S., and Tan, SL (2008) Stereotype Threat and Recommendations for Overcoming it: A Teaching Case Study. National Science Foundation. National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science.

Levy, Becca R. (2003) Mind Matters: Cognitive and Physical Effects of Aging Self-Stereotypes. The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences 58:P203-P211 (2003).

Matthews, Z. (2001) How Muslims are Negatively Stereotypes: The Australian Experience. Presented at the FAMSY 19th Annual Conference, University of Sydney (Cumberland Campus), Sydney14 July 2001.SALAM Magazine,

Yang, a., 2008-08-06 "Building up a Cognitive-Sociological Model of Stereotypical Frames and Their Effects (Student Paper)" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Association for…

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