Stereotypes can unlock doors to success

April 22nd, 2008 - 5:08 pm ICT by admin  

London, April 22 (IANS) Never be dismissive about the power of stereotypes. They can open or shut the doors to success, avers latest research from Britain. “What we think about ourselves - and also, what we believe others think about us - determines both how we perform and what we are able to become,” said Alex Haslam of the University of Exeter, and co-author of the study.

The study said that success or failure at work, at school or in sport, couldn’t always be ascribed to ability or incompetence. For example, a woman who has been led to believe that women tend to do worse than men at mathematics, will perform badly in the discipline.

Similarly, one reason why the English football team performs badly in penalty shoot-outs, just winning one out of seven major tournaments, is that performance is impeded by knowledge of stereotypes associated with a history of failure.

However, stereotypes can have positive dimensions too. For example, Asian women do better on maths tests if they identify themselves as Asian rather than as women, said researchers.

On the other hand, activists like Steve Biko and Emmeline Pankhurst were able to achieve emancipation for black South Africans and British women, by challenging stereotypes.

Another study has shown that white golfers tend to perform better against black opponents after being told they are being judged on “sport strategic intelligence” rather than being tested on their “natural athletic ability”.

Stephen Reicher of St. Andrews University and co-author of the study commented: “In many ways our stereotype of the stereotype is wrong.

These findings have appeared Tuesday in the new edition of Scientific American Mind.

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