Do stereotypes affect your performance?

Stereotype susceptibility is a phenomenon in which awareness of stereotypes about a person’s in-group and other out-groups affects a person’s behavior and performance on tasks related to the stereotype. Negative stereotypes about a person’s in-group can hinder performance (stereotype threat) and positive stereotypes about a person’s in-group can facilitate performance (stereotype boost). Shih, Pittinsky, and Ambady (1999) primed Asian American women with either their Asian identity (stereotyped with high math ability) or female identity (stereotyped with low math ability) or no priming before administering a math test. Of the three groups, Asian-primed participants performed best on the math test, female-primed participants performed worst. The article is a citation classic (over 1000 citations), but the original studies and conceptual replications have low sample sizes and wide confidence intervals, meaning they might not be reliable.

More recently, Gibson, Losee and Vitiello (2014) performed a replication of the study by Shih et al. In order to improve on the original study and increase the methodology, they used a much larger participant pool and they pre-registered their methodology. The latter means that the authors decided all important aspects of the study (including study design and statistical analyses) before the data are collected to prevent (unconscious) biases.

Gibson et al. found a similar stereotype threat effect as in the original study, but it was much lower (essentially negligible). Furthermore, there was only a negative effect of stereotype threat if the participants were aware of the relevant stereotypes. The participants who did not know about the Asian or female-identity stereotypes about math also did not perform worse when this stereotype was primed.



Gibson, C. E., Losee, J., & Vitiello, C. (2014). A Replication Attempt of Stereotype Susceptibility (Shih, Pittinsky, & Ambady, 1999). Social Psychology.

Shih, M. ,Pittinsky, T.L. , Ambady, N. (1999).Stereotype susceptibility: Identity salience and shifts inquantitative performance. Psychological Science,10,80–83.