The Effects of Gender Stereotypes for Structure Mapping in Mathematics


Fear of a negative stereotype about one’s performance can lead to temporary underperformance on tests; e.g. women may underperform on a math test when prompted to think about gender. The current study extends this literature to examine whether stereotype threat not only leads to underperformance on tests, but also may impact reasoning and learning more broadly. We focus in particular on the effects of stereotype threat on analogical learning, a complex reasoning process that imposes a high working memory load. In this study, we examined the effects of gender stereotypes when females were asked to learn by comparing the mathematical concepts of combinations and permutations. Overall, participants given a threat before learning gained less from the instruction, as reflected by assessments administered immediately after the lesson and after a 1-week delay. This could lead to systematic differences in the quality of abstract representational knowledge for individuals from negatively stereotyped groups.

Back to Table of Contents