The goal of disrupting distraction : investigating how stereotype threat disrupts working memory via the dual process of control
Ferris, Amber Cherie
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Few researchers would argue with the notion that stereotype threat inflicts its deleterious effects by depleting working memory resources. Even fewer can explain the true nature of stereotype threat's disruptive nature on working memory. Based upon the dual process framework of control (Kane & Engle, 2003) we examined whether or not stereotype threat produces its negative effects by creating distraction that debilitates individual's ability to maintain the goal of the task and one's ability to resolve competition between conflicting responses. In Study 1, 187 men engaged in a working memory capacity measure (Ospan) and then engaged in the color Stroop task under mostly congruent list conditions or mostly incongruent list conditions. The Stroop task was described as a test of verbal ability (stereotype threat condition) or not (control). The results demonstrated that stereotype threat disrupts working memory by interfering with an individual's ability to maintain the task goals increasing Stroop error effects, especially for those with lower working memory capacity. Study 2 was designed to replicate Study 1 using a different stereotyped population and to investigate what cognitive control strategy operates while under stereotype threat. Specifically, we examined if stereotype threat increases the use of reactive control strategies whereby individuals do not actively maintain the task goal, make an error that indicates conflict, which in turn reactivates the goal for a short while. In Study 2, 144 women were given the automated version of the Reading Span task to assess working memory capacity, then completed the counting Stroop task under mostly congruent list conditions or mostly incongruent list conditions with item specific congruency manipulated within both lists. The Stroop task was described as a quantitative ability task (stereotype threat condition) or not (control). Overall errors and reaction time were again assessed. In addition, errors and reaction times for mostly congruent items, mostly incongruent items, and item-specific effects were assessed. The results did not provide significant evidence as to what type of control strategy operates under stereotype threat. Implications of how stereotype threat disrupts working memory and how interventions can address these effects are discussed.
Collen F. Moore was incorrectly noted in thesis as the chairperson.