Stereotype threats

Stereotype threats

1.         Stereotype threat is an observable fact whereby the initiation of a self-relevant stereotype makes people to show stereotype-consistent behavior therefore bringing about the stereotypes. A good example of a stereotype threat manifests itself in African Americans’ poor performance in intelligence tests when their race is drawn to attention or even in women’s poor performance in math tests when their gender is made significant (Dar-Nimrod, & Heine, 2006).

There are four main factors contributing greatly to stereotype threats and they include attention, memory, language and reasoning. We are mostly going to concentrate on how language can contribute to these threats. Language can be defined as a system for communication through sounds or symbols that allows us to convey our thoughts, feelings, ideas and experiences. Communication depends as much on the entailed information as it does on the words that are openly stated.

Language affects a person’s thoughts in many ways and some concepts used in certain languages trigger negative sentiments in people’s minds. One way through which language can affect ones thoughts is the existence and non-existence of some words in specific languages. An example of such a word is the German word “schadenfreude” which is a general term for pleasure taken in somebody else’s misfortune. Because the word does not exist in the English vocabulary, English speakers in most cases are not subjected to such feelings (Spaniol lecture, 2009).

The idea of grammatical gender also affects the comprehended meaning. This is seen in different languages for example the word feminine in the German language implies beautiful, peaceful and slender while in the Spanish language, the use of the word masculine brings out the idea of big, dangerous and strong. Therefore, language can be a powerful tool in the shaping of a theoretical thought (Spaniol lecture, 2009).

Language also affects our way of thinking in by the way we think about time. This is because some words concerning time are expressed in different ways. In one example, we can look at the use of the words “earlier” and “later” in both the English and Mandarin languages. In English, “earlier” may imply “behind” or “back” while in Mandarin, it means “up”. The same applies for the word “later” which in English may either mean “ahead” or “forward” while in Mandarin it simply indicates down.

Vagueness, which is another word for imprecise communication can be used intentionally to create a positive emotional response. This involves using strong words like, “we stand for change”, that can lift a person’s spirit.

2.         Stereotype threat can be reduced by people concentrating on the pliability of the features at hand. As the findings of the study indicate, women who were manipulated through an essay on experiential causes and others through an essay arguing that there are no math-related gender differences performed well in the math tests than those who read an essay on genetics and the ones who were given an essay on  the standard stereotype manipulation (Spaniol lecture, 2009).

After analyzing these findings, I would strongly recommend to parents and educators to encourage the women by convincing them that there are no gender related differences and that would increase the representation of women in both math and science. In addition, stereotype threats in women’s math performance can be minimized by presenting them with experiential reports of the origins of the stereotype. This is because unless people are provided with experiential cases, they usually think of sex differences in genetic expressions.

3.         The presenting of experiential arguments about the genetic causes of academic achievements in women (PREMISE) makes them improve their performances in math tests (QUALIFIER). It is therefore advisable that scientists do more research on the genetic causes of academic achievement (CONCLUSION). On the other hand, more research on the genetic causes of academic achievement may prove the existence of the gender gap in math and science thus demoralizing the women even more (COUNTER-ARGUMENT).

There is no need for more research into genetic determinants of academic achievements (PREMISE) because the findings have negative effects on those who learn about them (QUALIFIER). It is thus advisable that scientists stop doing these researches to avoid the discomforting questions raised by the findings of these researches (CONCLUSION). On the contrary, doing more researches on genetic determinants may bring to open the role of genes in math performance thus help the scientists in trying to close the gender gap in math created by the stereotype threats (Spaniol lecture, 2009).

4.         Concerning stereotype threats, one should be able to ask himself how comes some of the women perform even better than most men in math and science fields. This question builds upon the study by Dar-Nimrod and Heine in that, women were able to perform well when given positive influence mentally therefore Dar-Nimrod and Heine should have gone on to explain the reason that some women even with negative influence surrounding them perform quite well as compared to their male counterparts. I would expect the findings of this research to indicate how small the genetic gap between men and women is and thus to prove that women can do the same things that men do very well (Dar-Nimrod, & Heine, 2006).

5.         In my study, I would use both men and women in doing the research. Then I would impose different thoughts on the overall population through giving them essays about the reason why women perform poorly in math and science tests. Two of the essays should argue whether math-related sex differences were due to genetic or experiential causes. The other two should have one arguing that there are no math-related gender differences with the other priming on sex without addressing the math stereotype. One potential limitation of using both men and women is that men will most likely not be affected by the essays thereby enhancing better performance than even the brighter women who would have performed well were it not for the essays.

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