Stereotype threat effects on black and white athletic performance

June 4, 2009 at 3:25 pm 2 comments

Some of my research is focused on the language used in school and sport setting, and how words have the ability to significantly shape the way we internalize beliefs about ability, and thus, affect our performance. Here is some information about one of the earliest and most influential experimental studies about stereotype threat and athletic performance…

Stone, J., Lynch, C. I., Sjomeling, M., & Darley, J. M. (1999). Stereotype threat effects on black and white athletic performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77, 1213-1227. [Download here]

This summary of the research by Stone et al. comes from, an absolutely incredible resource — for academics and the general public alike — that lucidly explains and makes accessible the stereotype threat literature :

In these studies, Black and White undergraduates were asked to complete a task involving golf skills, but the description of the task was varied to create a condition of stereotype threat for each group in one condition. In Experiment 1, participants were led to believe that the task required natural sports ability or required athletic intelligence. Based on culturally-shared stereotypes, these descriptions should introduce stereotype threat for White and Black participants, respectively. In fact, Blacks did perform better on the task when it was described as reflecting natural sports ability than when it was based on athletic intelligence, and Whites showed the opposite pattern. Experiment 2 focused on White participants who completed the task under high (“natural athletic ability”) or low (“sports psychology”) stereotype threat descriptions. Again, White students performed more poorly when the task was believed to reflect natural ability, but this did not occur for students who indicated that athletic performance was unrelated to their self-worth. In addition, task description did not affect students if their attention had been drawn to assessing the quality of the la in which the test was performed, indicating that distraction might undermine stereotype threat. These studies show that stereotype threat is a general phenomenon that can affect performance when a stereotype of poor performance implicates a valued social identity.

play, think…
J.R. Atwood


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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Deepak Mehra  |  August 31, 2010 at 3:12 am


  • 2. fitness  |  June 26, 2013 at 12:38 am

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Jason R. Atwood

I'm an avid trail runner and doctoral student at U.C. Berkeley who studies motivation and the relationship between the mind and body. This blog is a forum to share research, news, and musings about these topics of interest. More

Play is the beginning of knowledge.

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