For finding significant group differences between the two conditions (stereotype threat and control condition), t test was calculated. The t value obtained was significant, hence proving the hypothesis “there will be significant difference in the performance of undergraduate females in the stereotype threat condition and control condition”. The mean value for females in stereotype threat condition was less as compared to control condition. Demonstrating that stereotype threat has taken place as females in stereotype threat condition have scored less as compared to controls.
These results are consistent with the findings of Steele and Aronson (1995), they also reported a decrease in performance of the stereotyped group under stereotype threat condition. Moreover, introducing the test as diagnostic for mathematical ability as well as activating the stereotype that ‘females are poor in maths’, the subject might fear that her performance would confirm this negative stereotype. These negative cognitions will induce anxiety about confirming a negative stereotype about one’s group (Steele and Aronson, 1997) and arousal (Keller and Dauenheimer, 2003) which will directly interfere with the performance. However, Steele and Aronson (1995) showed that only presenting the test as diagnostic of one’s ability creates stereotype threat. Another reason could be activation of stereotype related thinking, leading to distraction and loss of motivation which, in turn, can negatively affect performance expectations and performance.
According to Stangor, Carr, and Kiang (1998) activating gender stereotypes undermined performance expectations of women who were asked to estimate their performance on an upcoming tasks. However, another possibility could be self-fulfilling prophecy (Merton, 1948). Since stereotype threat induces self- defeating and negative cognitions which provide psychological protection by providing a prior explanation for failure, consequently reducing preparation and effort. Moreover, if individuals expect to do poorly on a task, they might not be able to perform as well as when confidence is high which will, in turn, create a self-fulfilling prophecy in them.
Similarly, Prasad (2011) in an experiment reported that womens in stereotype threat condition tend to deter from leadership roles. Negative cognitions can also mediate performance by altering emotional states of the person. Stereotype threat can induce negative emotions like frustration, disappointment, and sadness which can in turn affect the performance (Keller and Dauenheimer, 2003).
These emotions produce anxiety, motivation loss and lessen the cognitive resources vital for performing. Inzlicht, McKay & Aronson (2006) showed that stereotype threat can diminish people’s ability to direct their attention and behaviour in purposeful ways. Stereotype threat also affects one’s working memory capacity. Alternatively, this reduction in performance could also be explained by social inhibition which takes place in the presence of others (Zajonc, 1968). Presence of male participants could have caused evaluation apprehension in females, simultaneously coupled with the fear of confirming the stereotype that women perform weak in mathematics as compared to men, could have resulted in the actual performance reduction in females. Lastly, stereotype threat could also be explained by citing the cues hypothesis, which holds that situational cues, such as a setting’s features and presence of others can make stereotyped groups vulnerable to social identity threat. Murphy and colleagues (2007) showed that women who were in stereotype threat condition showed more vigilance to details of cues in their physical environment, faster heart rates, and greater sympathetic activation of the cardiovascular system than men in stereotype threat condition.
Similarly, presence of male confederates could also have created stereotype threat in female participants. Similarly, Inzlicht and Ben-Zeev (2000) showed that when number of males were more as compared to number of females, females underperformed.