Stereotype threat (ST) refers to a situation in which a member of a group fears that her or his performance will validate an existing negative performance stereotype, causing a decrease in performance. For example, reminding women of the stereotype “women are bad at math” causes them to perform more poorly on math questions from the SAT and GRE. Performance deficits can be of several types and be produced by several mechanisms. We show that ST prevents perceptual learning, defined in our task as an increasing rate of search for a target Chinese character in a display of such characters. Displays contained two or four characters and half of these contained a target. Search rate increased across a session of training for a control group of women, but not women under ST. Speeding of search is typically explained in terms of learned “popout” (automatic attraction of attention to a target). Did women under ST learn popout but fail to express it? Following training, the women were shown two colored squares and asked to choose the one with the greater color saturation. Superimposed on the squares were task-irrelevant Chinese characters. For women not trained under ST, the presence of a trained target on one square slowed responding, indicating that training had caused the learning of an attention response to targets. Women trained under ST showed no slowing, indicating that they had not learned such an attention response.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Stereotypes can prevent perceptual learning.
Some interesting observations from Rydell et al, who find that simply reminding women about the negative stereotype about women's math and visual processing performance inhibits their performance on a visual search task...