Stereotype threatening contexts enhance encoding of negative feedback to engender underperformance and anxiety

Chad E. Forbes*, Kelly A. Duran, Jordan B. Leitner, Adam Magerman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

In a recent meta-analysis, women exhibit varied performances on mathematic aptitude tests yet report more negative math perceptions compared to men. One explanation for this is that stereotype threatening (ST) contexts, that is, stressful contexts that engender negative emotions, arousal, and error vigilance, facilitate encoding of stereotype confirming information. Two studies tested this hypothesis. Study 1 found that ST women encoded error feedback better than correct feedback received on a math task compared to non-threatened women and men. Study 2 extended this effect to neutral information presented in conjunction with negative feedback. Furthermore, ST-based negative memory encoding mediated underperformance on a future difficult math test, which in turn engendered post-task anxiety. Findings indicate ST fosters negative math affect via biased memories even when women's initial performance is comparable to men.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)605-625
Number of pages21
JournalSocial Cognition
Volume33
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2015
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Math anxiety
  • Memory encoding
  • Memory recall
  • STEM identification
  • Stereotype threat

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