Women identify more closely with positive stereotypes, performance-wise

May 4th, 2009 - 3:11 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, May 4 (IANS) Women identify more closely with positive stereotypes, avoiding the harmful effect that negative ones can have on their performance, says a new study.
The study, led by Robert J. Rydell, professor of psychology and brain sciences at Indiana University, focussed on women and their maths ability.

Studies have shown that women will perform worse on a maths task if simply made aware of the negative stereotype that women are weaker at maths than men.

But this is the first to examine the influence of concurrent and competing stereotypes, one negative and one positive.

The study also demonstrates how the negative stereotype encroached on working memory, thus leaving less brain power to deal with the maths task at hand.

The positive stereotypes had no such effect, however, and when coupled with the negative stereotype erased its drain on working memory, said an Indiana release.

“This research shows that because people are members of multiple social groups making them aware of both a positive group stereotype and a negative stereotype eliminates the threat and under performance that is usually seen when they dwell only on their membership in a negatively stereotyped group,” Rydell said.

“People seem motivated to align themselves with positively stereotyped groups and, as a by product, can eliminate the worry, stress and cognitive depletion brought about by negative performance stereotypes, increasing actual performance.”

The study appeared in the latest issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

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