Exploring how perceived true self-knowledge influences strereotype threat effects
Whitaker, Travis Adam
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Despite no evidence of inherent ability differences between men and women, women continue to be underrepresented in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields. One (of several) factor that contributes to this underrepresentation is the negative effects that heightened concerns about being the target of stereotypes (i.e., stereotype threat) has on women's performance and motivation to persist in math-relevant fields. My thesis assessed whether perceived true self-knowledge - or the feeling of knowing who one really is - might buffer women from the negative effects of stereotype threat. Female participants (N = 133) were brought into the lab where they first completed a perceived true self-knowledge measure. Participants were then exposed to a math-relevant stereotype threat manipulation and subsequently completed primary outcome measures of math performance, interest in math, and the adoption of maladaptive goal orientations in math. I hypothesized that stereotype threat would decrease math performance, reduce interest in math, and increase the adoption of maladaptive goal orientations (i.e., performance avoidance goals), but only among participants low in perceived true self-knowledge. Participants high in true self-knowledge were expected to be buffered from these effects. The results did not support these predictions. However, the results may be inconclusive due to the ineffectiveness of the stereotype threat manipulation utilized. The discussion focuses on recommendations for future studies that might more effectively test the hypotheses under scrutiny.