The experience of shifting standards for women athletes : consequences of stereotyped feedback
Wagaman, Jill Marie
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Women athletes were recruited to investigate the experience of 'shifting standards.' Shifting standards occurs when people use stereotypes (e.g. gender and athleticism) to make a relative judgment about performance or behavior. Whereas past research has examined shifting standards from the perceiver's perspective, the current project investigates shifting standards from the target's perspective. To inform our hypotheses, we relied on stereotype threat literature (Stone et al., 1999) and the motivational model for stereotyped tasks (Smith, Sansone & White, 2007). Using athletics as the stereotyped domain, Study 1 demonstrated that the masculine nature of the domain was important in predicting reactions to shifting standards feedback. In addition, there was a positive relationship between stigma consciousness and domain identification. In Study 2, college students and community participants were recruited using a pre-screen questionnaire assessing domain identification and primary sport played. As a result, self-identified women athletes (n = 77, 15.6% community) were blocked on the masculine nature of the sport, resulting in a 2 (type of sport: masculine, non-masculine) x 3 (feedback: positive, shifting standards, no feedback) between-subjects design. After first engaging in an ambiguous athletic test, participants received the feedback manipulation. Participants were presented with a "word puzzle" and completed a measure of gender stereotype activation. Then, a second unambiguous test was administered to measure performance, and participants completed post-test measures assessing interest, future motivation, and self-esteem. The athletic tasks were ostensibly assessing the sport each woman most identified with, but all participants actually received the same two tests. The proposed relationship between feedback, performance, and motivation was unaffected by type of sport. Explanations are provided for why this relationship was not supported. Instead, stigma consciousness moderated the effect of feedback on performance and motivation. Women high in stigma consciousness receiving shifting standards feedback showed high gender stereotype activation, low performance, and low interest compared to women high in stigma consciousness receiving positive feedback. These results were not due to participants' self-esteem or level of commitment to the test. Theoretical and practical implications for the experience of shifting standards are discussed.