How to make stereotypes work to your advantage:


Are you feeling the effects of negative stereotypes? How do you prevent it from affecting your performance? Fight fire with fire! You can neutralize a negative stereotype with a positive stereotype:

One troubling aspect of membership in a stigmatized group is that negative stereotypes about the group’s performance affect one’s personal performance (i.e., stereotype threat). Women who are made aware of the negative stereotype that “women are bad at math” perform worse than women who are not made aware of this stereotype. However, women can use an “escape hatch” to avoid stereotype threat by identifying with another social identity (i.e., college students) that has positive stereotypes for math performance and having greater feelings of self-worth. This research shows that women who had greater self-esteem and were presented with an alternative, positive social identity were buffered from stereotype threat by eliminating working memory decrements responsible for poor math performance. Women lower in self-esteem, however, did not benefit from a positive, alternative social identity when it was available and thus fell prey to stereotype-based working memory and performance decrements.

Source: “Capitalizing on Multiple Social Identities to Prevent Stereotype Threat: The Moderating Role of Self-Esteem” from “Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin”

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