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Whistling Vivaldi: And Other Clues to How Stereotypes Affect Us

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Acclaimed social psychologist Claude Steele offers an insider’s look at his groundbreaking findings on stereotypes and identity. Through dramatic personal stories, Claude Steele shares the experiments and studies that show, again and again, that exposing subjects to stereotypes―merely reminding a group of female math majors about to take a math test, for example, that women are considered naturally inferior to men at math―impairs their performance in the area affected by the stereotype. Steele’s conclusions shed new light on a host of American social phenomena, from the racial and gender gaps in standardized test scores to the belief in the superior athletic prowess of black men. Steele explicates the dilemmas that arise in every American’s life around issues of identity, from the white student whose grades drop steadily in his African American Studies class to the female engineering students deciding whether or not to attend predominantly male professional conferences. Whistling Vivaldi offers insight into how we form our senses of identity and ultimately lays out a plan for mitigating the negative effects of “stereotype threat” and reshaping American identities.

242 pages, Hardcover

First published April 12, 2010

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About the author

Claude M. Steele

5 books31 followers

Claude M. Steele is a former professor at Stanford University who is now executive vice chancellor and provost at the University of California, Berkeley.

The above is from the website of Smith College, where Steele's Book Whistling Vivaldi: And Other Clues To How Stereotypes Affect Us has been chosen for the 2014 Summer Read Program for first year students.

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Profile Image for Trevor.
1,291 reviews21.7k followers
November 23, 2014
You do need to get your hands on this book, although, I suspect it might not be all that easy - but whatever effort is involved will be rewarded.

Years ago I read something that hasn't let go of me since. It was a couple of pages in Predictably Irrational where he described an experiment with a group of Asian girls given a test in mathematics. The thing is that Asian girls belong to two oppositely stereotyped groups. As girls they are in a group that is defined as hopeless at maths - as Asians they are great at maths. Prior to being given a maths test they were subtly primed to either think of themselves as girls or as Asians - for the very young girls discussed in this book, girls of about five or six years old, they were either asked to colour in a picture of a girl holding a doll or of an Asian man planting in a rice field. They were then given the test and those that had been primed to think of themselves as Asian did better than those who had been primed to think of themselves as girls. Stereotypes matter, but how do they do this?

This book was written by the guy who not only started a lot of this research into stereotype threat off, that is, the notion that being placed in a situation that might have you confirm a stereotype that is held about the group of people to whom you happen to belong is likely to diminish your performance. It is written as a bit of a detective novel. It is very much written for everyone, and that can be a problem at times - but this is such a quick read and so much better written than other books of this kind that I've read, that whatever failings there are in this genre, they are excusable here and so I've mostly overlooked them... Well, all except the title. I know, it is ironic in a book that is essentially telling us to we shouldn't judge a book by its cover that I'm forced to warn you to not do exactly that with this book. But this is a seriously bad title. First of all, it tells you almost nothing about what the book is about until you read the book. The short version of the story that gave the book its title is that a young black man was walking down the street at night dressed in young person street clothes and realised that he was frightening the crap out of the white people he was walking past. What to do? So, to calm things he started whistling classical music - I know, Vivaldi is Baroque, but stay with me. The white people were now confronted by two stereotypes - vicious black male out to mug them, some guy whistling classical music. On the basis that no one gets mugged by anyone whistling classical music (at least, no one admits it) the white people walking by smiled at him and walked on. Presumably with their brains oozing out their ears after having exploded.

But this is a bad story to serve as the title of the book for so many reasons. First, as I said before, it is far too obscure for anyone picking up the book to have any idea what the book is going to be about. I have exactly the same problem with one of my favourite novels The Heart is a Lonely Hunter - which isn't about 'that' at all. The other problem is that once you know what the title 'means' it implies that overcoming stereotype threat is, well, as simple as whistling a wee tune - although, admittedly, if he was whistling Winter that wouldn't have been nearly as easy as I'm making it out to be.

The problem that is brought up repeatedly here is that stereotype threat is insidious and, worse, it affects you more the more intelligent and the more motivated that you are. But let's start with mini-golf. They got this group of males from Princeton (I think, I would need to check) and they got them to play a round of mini-golf. For half of them they just let them play the game, for the other half, both white and black, they told them this was a test of their natural sporting ability. The stereotype threat here is on the white males - as everyone knows, white men can't jump, they don't have 'natural sporting ability' - that belongs to black males along with rhythm.

The white males under stereotype threat did worse on the game of mini-golf than any of the three other groups, white and black not told anything about the 'point' of the game, or the black group told it tested natural sporting ability.

Then they did the thing over and this time told half of the black males and half of the white males that this was a test of sporting intelligence. Since any form of intelligence is conceived as stereotype threat for black Americans, this group suddenly did worse than anyone in the other three groups. But why? What is the mechanism that causes this?

And it is in answering this question that the book becomes really interesting. One of the things they found early was that black Americans at university tended to work harder than either Asian or White students in their studies. But they worked harder in just about the worst possible way - isolated, alone and with their text books. Why was this a problem? Well, Asian kids, for instance, were much more likely to do homework together. So, when someone had a problem with their calculus homework - they didn't get the right answer - they would say, "I've stuffed up, but I can't see where I've gone wrong". One of the others would have a quick look and either say, "7 plus 4 is 11, not 13" - or "When you integrate for d(y) over cos squared theta you can't hold that term constant unless pi has been rooted" or something equally improbable... Anyway, the point is that in the first case the student has made a simple adding mistake - adding is important, but it isn't going to be enough to get your through university calculus. In the second case the student hasn't understood something more fundamental about the mathematics of the problem itself - and having someone beside you to explain it to you helps, in fact, helps a lot.

But black students in this situation normally work alone. So when they 'solve' the problem, then look up the answer in the back of the book and it says 7, rather than the 24 they got, what does that mean? Did they just forget to carry the two in their adding somewhere along the way in the problem - a simple and mostly meaningless mistake, that might not cost them a single mark in the test - or did they differentiate rather than integrate, a serious mistake that will mean they get nothing for the question and fail the test? That is, is their mistake meaningless or completely consequential? The only way they can find out is to spend lots of time checking all of their arithmetic, which is essentially a waste of time when compared to what the Asian students do who, therefore, spend more time learning the actual concepts involved in the maths problems.

But why might black students work alone? Well, because they suffer under a socially constructed stereotype threat that says black people are stupid. And so they avoid situations where they might 'look' stupid. To ask for help, in any guise, potentially makes you look stupid. So, black students lock themselves away in pristine isolation and attack problems with dedication and brute force and redoubled effort. These inefficient study techniques, born from seeking to avoid stereotype threat, undermine their ability to succeed. There is a lovely story of a young black male watching two white males drinking beer in a lecture and feeling righteous indignation at their behaviour, only tempered by the idea that these kids where going to crash and burn come the exams. And then, cruelty piled upon cruelty, despite how hard he had worked and how good he'd been and how he'd done what was asked of him, he still did worse than these two piss-heads come the end of the course. How do you avoid stereotype threat under these circumstances? How do you not think, 'I just mustn't be up to this'?

It is the mechanism that causes this that is the most interesting part of the book for me, though. When they asked students how anxious they were when they were taking tests all students answered pretty much the same - a bit, but not all that much. But the researchers knew not to trust self-reporting. People really struggle to know how they are really feeling at any given time and asking them after the event you might as well just ask them how much their hair grew while they were doing the test. So, the researchers did two things to see how much stereotype threat was impacting on performance. The first was a kind of fill in the gaps game, like R A _ _, now that could be RATE or RATS or RASP - but if you are about to do a test and you are under stereotype threat, you are likely to fill that in as RACE. And so they found. People under stereotype threat tended to be subconsciously focused on that threat and so were more likely to see words that confirmed that stereotype - filling in dumb or stupid or lazy, for instance. The second was to literally test people's blood pressure and heart rates. What they found was that people under stereotype threat were much more anxious than they admitted or, rather, had been aware.

The heart rate measure was particularly interesting. I didn't know that when you are concentrating on something your heart rate becomes more constant the more you are concentrating. So, in an exam you can expect people who are deeply engaged to have a very even heart rate. What did they find - well, exactly that, except for the black students or females under stereotype threat. For them the more regular their heart beat, the worse they did in the test. They were concentrating all right, but a lot of that 'load' was taken up with dealing with stereotype threat. How did they know? Because the ones that had the most regular heartbeats and still did badly in the test were also the ones that 'found' the most steretypically negative words in the word game.

The thing is that this isn't the case with all tests. If the test is relatively easy then stereotype threat doesn't diminish performance, it actually enhances it. To disprove the stereotype you are likely to do more of something and to really put in. But for a test to be a test, it needs to test the limits of your knowledge. It needs to put you under pressure. But if you are already under pressure from stereotype threat, then you are in danger of 'choking'. That is, to start believing that you are the stereotype that is said about 'your kind'. This added threat undermines your performance by diminishing the resources available to you when you need them the most. It is only when the going gets tough that you might start questioning your abilities and this questioning is fatal. And this is why stereotype threat impacts the brightest and best - they are the ones most likely to want to avoid such a characterisation of themselves and therefore the ones most likely to panic when they think they are about to confirm just that.

But there are ways of overcoming this threat and the impact it has on performance. One way discussed was to remind girls who were about to do a maths test of all of the successful women in history - such reminding of positive role models did much to overcome the threat caused by the idea that all women are useless at maths. Another way was in the kinds of praise you give people under stereotype threat - rather than the standard teacher 'shit sandwich' - praise / criticism / praise, you know, "I love how you've spelt your name here, so creative, but maybe you shouldn't write these essays in crayon, and was the red wine you've spilt on this a shiraz? I love shiraz." Students under stereotype threat are unlikely to hear any of the praise bits of this standard teacher way of giving feedback and only hear the criticism. However, they are much more likely to respond if they are held to high expectations that it is utterly clear their teacher expects them to be able to meet. Remember, these are kids that WANT to succeed. Bullshitting them isn't necessary, but belief in them is.

There is also an utterly fascinating section on how to make places friendly for minority groups in those spaces. When I studied physics a life time ago there were never more than one or two females in the class. Those were not girl friendly spaces. But the research that is explained here makes it clear that people 'count' in those spaces, they count how many people 'like them' there are and when that ratio gets low enough, people start to worry. Knowing that is likely to happen needs to be an important part in how we go about 'welcoming' people into spaces. Stereotype threat makes confirmation of stereotypes almost a self-fulfilling prophesy. As such, it is up to the people with power in those spaces, spaces that undermine the confidence of minority groups who are also likely to be suffering under stereotype threat, to do what can be done to remove that threat.

You really do need to get hold of this book - I think it is on one of the most important ideas in social psychology for some time. This book deserves to be much more widely read. I've read another book on a similar topic - Gladwell's latest on David and Goliath. His advice for black students who suffer poor performance is to go to a second rate university where they can be a big fish in a small pond. If you are black or female or (an so on) and thinking about which university to go to, read this book rather than Gladwell's.
Profile Image for Amrita Singh.
1 review1 follower
August 3, 2013
i just finished whistling vivaldi! excellent points were obviously made, but i can't help but feel that it was repetitive and that its facts were almost over-supported with evidence (almost the same conclusions are reached over and over and over again). this could simply be because of its nature as a scholarly novel and an exploration of the author's focus in his career.

i think that too much time was spent exploring what exactly identity threat was (at times i wanted to throw my hands in the air and yell "I GET IT!" ), while not really exploring how/why personal identities or stereotypes are formed (maybe those ideas are too controversial?). i also would have appreciated more commentary on why our society's pull-yourself-up-by-your-boostraps mentality is problematic (inequalities in social capital, racial contingencies, etc.).

the most fascinating parts were on how identity threat could be reduced or eliminated, but i still feel like this could have been explored in more depth (maybe devote half of the book to this rather than just a chapter).

i think, in the end, it's the fact that this book has a VERY specific scope that hurts it. it closely follows the research done by the author and his colleagues on identity threat. it doesn't stray too far from the research and its findings, and ends up neglecting important history and commentary.

i realize that all this criticism may make it seem like i didn't like it at all -- let me clarify. the book makes several fascinating and eye-opening points; i just would have allocated book space differently.

p.s. did it bother anyone else that the spots on the cover don't actually accurately reflect the content of the book? minor pet peeve.
Profile Image for Mehrsa.
2,234 reviews3,657 followers
December 14, 2020
This was good, but I think some of this research has been updated since then. The start of the book had a nice framing of streotype threat, but I'm not sure all of the studies have been replicable or have held up over time 
Profile Image for Elizabeth Hunter.
323 reviews14 followers
August 10, 2010
At last there is theory and evidence to explain under-performance by various groups in academic and professional settings that does not fall back on the idea that, for example, women simply aren't as good as men at math and science, that black students can't hack it in university, that older workers are simply inferior to younger workers. That idea is stereotype-threat, the concern that one's performance may conform to a negative stereotype of one's group, which results in an extra cognitive load and other effects with negative consequences.

The book is straightforward in laying out a progression of experiments by social psychologists that has led to a much better understanding of the forces at work and the ways in which identity-threats in our functional environments act on us all to reduce our effectiveness and create gulfs between our groups that may have nothing to do with the attitudes of the people involved. Best of all, it begins to look at ways to mitigate these threats and to counter their effects in order to create situations in which people can reach their potentials without crippling their own achievements.

This work feels so deeply true to me that I expect it will become "common knowledge" and considered "intuitively obvious" within a decade. But it is revolutionary in looking not at the qualities of the individuals for explanations that have always been unsatisfying, but at the context in which the individual operates.

Who should read this book? Everyone. Really. Teachers and parents and HR professionals and anyone in a mentoring position. Men--if anyone's ever told you that you just don't get it, this book might be the clue you're missing! Women. People of all colors and backgrounds. People need to read this book. The copy I read is from the library, but I'm strongly considering buying my own copy--you should, too.
Profile Image for Jillian.
482 reviews18 followers
August 1, 2015
This book is a thorough exploration of Stereotype Threat and all of its repercussions. I consider myself fairly well-versed in this topic, but at times I was absolutely astounded by what I read.

You should read this if you are a person of color, or a woman, or if you know any people of color or any women, and definitely if you are an educator of people of color and/or women. I guess if you live on a planet of homogeneous white men you can skip it.
Profile Image for Matthew Zhang.
44 reviews11 followers
September 14, 2014
Drawn in by the array of colorful, minimalistic lettering and the promise of “an intellectual odyssey of the first order” on the front cover, I was, for once, excited to read the summer’s required reading: “Whistling Vivaldi.” Distributed by Northwestern for the Class of 2018 freshmen, the novel’s subject matter - as summarized by the subtitle, “how stereotypes affect us and what we can do” - was a fairly obvious topic to introduce to a student entering an environment lush with diversity, but not necessarily a simplistic one. Stereotypes have influenced human history for thousands of years, and, whether magnified by broad national events like the Ferguson crisis or experienced through personal, diffuse bursts of social alienation, they are still an unavoidable, intricately embedded fact of modern life. I saw in “Whistling Vivaldi” the potential for provoking myriad discussions of this sort, questions like: How have stereotypes evolved throughout time - are they inevitable? What are the root causes of stereotypes, and how and why do they differ from place to place? Are there pragmatic solutions to stereotyping, and if there are, do those solutions put our unique social cultures and identities at risk for homogenization? And so when I opened to the first chapter, I only hoped that it would be these kinds of issues that would be explored, and not the typical promulgations of “diversity good stereotype bad,” which would be a terrible letdown. But, as it turned out, it wasn’t banality that I should have been wary of when approaching this book. It was utter boredom.

The introduction starts off innocuously enough. Steele tells us that he first realized his “black identity” when he was eight years old, after noticing that he could visit certain swimming pools only on Wednesdays. It’s not exactly the most unique or stirring of narratives, but it serves its point in introducing us to the concept of “identity contingencies.” Quoted from Steele, identity contingencies are “the things you have to deal with in a situation because you have a given social identity.” Again, it’s not the most novel of concepts – filtered down from the already filtered down explanation, identity contingencies just mean “stereotypes affect us,” a reiteration of the subtitle – but I recognize the power of building complex arguments from a simple foundation, so I am willing to be placated under the assumption that this is what Steele was working towards. The next few sections of the first chapter seem to agree with this. He discusses the story of a black man who was able to alter others’ negative stereotypes about himself by whistling Vivaldi; he talks about the negative effects “stereotype threat” can have through experiments with Princeton students; and he outlines certain discussion points concerning identifying and combating these threats. My appetite whetted, hungry for the roller-coaster “intellectual odyssey” I was promised, I flip to the second chapter for the revelation that…

…stereotypes affect us. Um.

Apparently, the oh-so “mysterious link” between identity and intellectual performance, as posed by the chapter title, was the aforementioned stereotype threat. Through a series of experiments, which are all nearly identical variations of putting one group under stereotype threat and not putting another group under stereotype threat, Steele concludes how “surprising” it was that groups under stereotype threat perform significantly worse. Although he makes an important distinction that any group, whether historically marginalized or not, can suffer when this threat is imposed upon them - important because it dispels the racist belief that some groups are inherently predisposed to underperform - I still have to ask: is it really that surprising that, when a group is placed under a threat, that they underperform? Is it really surprising that the gnawing voice of anxiety - that voice that tells you that you have to belong, that you have to carry the weight of ancestral stigmas, that perhaps there really are physical deficiencies inherent within you - can also chew through tendons and synapses, impairing physical and intellectual abilities? I mean, that’s pretty much the very definition of a threat: to diminish you, to make you feel worse. But perhaps these concepts seem trivial only in hindsight. Perhaps identifying the obvious is a crucial step in resolving the problem. So I move on.

And it doesn’t get better.

Here’s a summary of some more “surprising” concepts the following chapters explains to us:

Chapter 3: Stereotypes Affect Many of Us
Chapter 4: Stereotypes Affect Many of Us (and also famous people sometimes)
Chapter 5: Stereotypes Affect Us Intellectually
Chapter 6: Stereotypes Affect Us Academically
Chapter 7: Stereotypes Affect Us Physically
Chapter 8: Stereotypes Affect Us Through Social Cues
Chapter 9: Stereotype Threats can be Reduced Through Explicitly Encouraging Diversity
Chapter 10: Stereotypes Affect Us
Chapter 11: Diversity can be Pretty Neat

To be fair, Chapter 9 actually offers us some useful insight on the necessity of taking explicit actions, whether through policies that encourages diversity or through seminars that encourage students to discuss the problem. But oh my god you did not need to spend 200 pages getting to that point. It would be fine if those 200 pages had gorgeous prose, or elegant experiments, or anything other than “stereotypes affect us” repeated over and over and over again, but nope. Look, I’ll even flip to a few random pages to illustrate my point.

80 pages in, while talking to a white student who was taking an African American political science class, Steele says: “I said [to him] that was probably why he felt his “whiteness” so strongly in this class: it made him a minority there. Also, the topic of the class made negative stereotypes about whites […] constantly prominent. This put him under pressure, I explained.” Really. Did you really think that he didn’t realize his “whiteness” made him a minority, when he told you that he was one of only two whites in a fifty person classroom, in an African American political science class, where the professor displays photographs of slaves being brutally whipped on Powerpoint, and the homework is to “put themselves in their shoes?” Did you really think he needed his discomfort explained to him?

I’m fairly certain that this kind of implicit condescension is more a product of Steele’s awkward prose than an actual character trait that he possesses. For example, two pages later: “As one often says in the science business, this is an ‘empirical question,’ a question that can be answered by research and therefore should be answered by research.” Is ‘as one often says in the science business’ at all necessary? What, are you referring to ‘science’ as some some secretive, foreign club where terms like ‘empirical’ are completely unknown to us common folk? Please, just cut that out.

Also: “Anagrams can be very easy to solve, as in 'ebd' being easily rearranged into 'bed,' or very difficult to solve, as in 'ferhziidsaenncd' being rearranged into 'disenfranchised.'" Wow, you’re actually right here. “Ferhziidsaenncd” would be difficult to solve, what with the extra ‘z’ and all.

Also: an experiment where the dependent variable, “uncomfortableness,” is measured by “distance between chairs at the end of conversation,” where the conclusion is - can you guess? - that stereotypes can cause uncomfortableness.

I won’t bore you with more examples; Steele can do that himself.

Sorry, maybe that was a little bit harsh. But considering I went through 200 pages of things like this, you might understand my aggravation.

In the acknowledgments, Steele mentions that “psychologists write articles not books,” and I have to say, this book really didn’t disprove his initial belief. If 90% of the extraneous experiments and redundant remarks had been removed in favor of the more insightful arguments concerning unconscious racism and explicitly promoting diversity, I still may not have believed that this book was an “intellectual odyssey of the first order,” but at least I would have regarded Steele’s work with some interest. But as such, Steele’s rendition of Vivaldi ended up sounding less like whistling, and more like a faint, persistent droning. Two stars.
Profile Image for Maya Day.
45 reviews2 followers
June 27, 2016
This was required reading for school next year, and I have lot of mixed feelings about it. It has a lot of flaws but some redeeming qualities.
It was boring in its repetition of the very obvious finding that, yes, stereotypes affect the way we perform, not biology. This is what he called a "stereotype threat," and the book mostly consisted of very similar studies that all confirmed the same obvious conclusion.
It also stressed me out in its futility over the individual's ability to control this "stereotype threat." One part explained how “over effort” to overcome this threat is actually futile in most cases, which made me feel super frustrated and depressed about my academic future and overcoming stereotypes in general. Steele even went so far as to say that trying to overcome stereotypes over long periods of time even leads to major health problems. GREAT.
The last few chapters deal with solutions and they're mostly on an institutional level (as in what schools can do to counter stereotype threats), so at least there's that. A more successful (and enjoyable) version of this book would be directed more to the solutions of these contingencies rather than the proof that they exist.
Profile Image for Ryan.
987 reviews
February 7, 2022
In Whistling Vivaldi: And Other Clues to How Stereotypes Affect Us, Claude M. Steele explores identity contingencies and stereotype threat.

The title comes from a story shared by Brent Staples, who wrote for the New York Times. A black American, Staples didn’t like that his white neighbours would cross the street to avoid him at night. More specifically, he didn’t like that they experienced fear when they saw him, and so he began to walk along backstreets to spare them that painful experience. Then he discovered that he could put his neighbors at easy by whistling classical music (e.g. Vivaldi) while walking home in the evening. Staples' kindness is admirable, even if the burden his neighbors put on him was not.

Steele considers other strategies black Americans have used to deal with their identity contingency. Anatole Broyard, for example, was light skinned and "passed," which means he presented himself to others as a white man. His parents lived as blacks; he and his children lived as whites. Another woman, whose name is not provided, leaves America and lives in Paris. (Speaking personally, I still remember when I first lived abroad and was able to leave all of the baggage of my childhood identity behind.) Both of Steele's examples are intriguing, but, like Staples' story, there is also something unsatisfying about them as a scalable strategy.

What to do? Steele and his colleagues have discovered some ways to, at least in part, counter stereotype threat in a university assignment. They told women in the advanced math class at one point that the women on "this test" do as well as men. In another example, they reminded female students that they had got into Stanford. With some black students, the teachers just said things like "I've marked this essay according to a high standard that I believe you can reach if you read this feedback." They could reduce or eliminate achievement gaps. It's worth noting that bootstrapping mostly does not work, perhaps because it often leads people to work in isolation late into the night rather than working with others.

I want to note that although this review, and Steele's book, mostly explore the experiences of women and black students in American universities, everyone is susceptible to stereotype threat. If you've ever given a rant, you've almost certainly experienced stereotype threat. Our identities and stereotypes attached to them can be taken for granted, or not, and they can be triggered, or not. When our identities are activated under stereotype threat, they place a cognitive load on us. Instead of focusing, we start to worry: am I confirming the stereotype for others? Steele offers many examples of how our minds can be highjacked in this way. Here are a couple tangential examples that occurred to me. First, the NBA player, Kevin Garnett, was a master of threatening the identities of his opponents through now legendary smack talk. Second, it's been established that people who live in poverty are always allocating some mental resources to thinking about food, bills, or catastrophic thinking. Third, we understand that multitasking impairs our ability to think and to focus. If you can understand these three examples, you can probably also understand how stereotypes "in the air" can begin to affect, to give three of Steele's examples, a woman in an advanced math class, a black person in a predominantly white university, or a white person in a predominately black class studying African American history.

Whistling Vivaldi was published in 2010. At one point, Steele considers Barack Obama's communication on identity:
Clearly Obama gained from exploring his identities; it gave him self-awareness and poise, insight and empathy into the circumstances of other people’s lives, a connection to a great range of people, and the social competence to get things done. In his example, identity wasn’t a source of balkanization and that; it was a source of wisdom about the challenges of a complex and diverse society that ultimately made him the most suitable person to lead such a society. To the surprise of all, perhaps, it was his stress on identity, not his suppression of it, that made him a symbol of hope.
Reading Steele's optimistic conclusion was a crushing experience for me in 2020.

Update 2022: The use of priming to improve student performance does not appear to have survived the replication crisis.

Profile Image for RK.
101 reviews2 followers
January 18, 2015
I checked this book out of the library and then studiously avoided it. I renewed it three times while it taunted me from a shelf, and didn't crack it open until two days before it was for-real due.

I was familiar with the author's published articles already so knew roughly what the content would be. But it was hard to sit down to read about stereotype threat when I swim in it regularly as a gender minority in my field.

I thought reading the research on the topic would cause me to over-analyze my own experiences and feel more stress, but this book is hopeful. In addition to detailing research on the negative effects of identity-threat on performance, it presents interventions that can erase these effects, including changes to the physical environments, new framing of tasks and tests, and changes to the narratives we use to understand our own experiences.

Like all of the general audience science books I've ever read, this one is a little repetitive. Still, I recommend this book as useful reading for anyone who interacts with humans.
Profile Image for Sintia.
41 reviews
April 15, 2021
finally writing a review because i think i have recovered enough from willis drilling this book into my head for like four months straight. not necessarily a "bad" book, there's a lot of insightful information and you can tell a lot of research went into writing this. plus i like how he added anecdotes to make the book easier to understand.
however, it's written terribly.
there's a constant repeating of the same concepts. it's painfully obvious that the author majored in STEM. every time I saw the word contingency or stereotype threat I wanted to shoot myself. the word stereotype will never be the same for me. i think I have trauma actually. one thing that confused me was that he spent like six (?) chapters explaining how stereotypes cause students to underperform then he suddenly switches up and says that stereotypes cause students to perform better. it was a very ??? moment for me. maybe I'm missing something but i will not give the author the benefit of the doubt. he doesn't deserve it. i suffered too much to be nice.
this is extremely petty of me to me to point out but I don't like how he listed multiple different types of people with stereotypes that affect them on the cover and not go over every type in the book. it's giving clickbait. false advertisement. as trump would say, "fake news". most of this book got on my nerves solely because this man cannot write for the life of him and spent most of the book repeating everything in different ways and writing overly complicated and long sentences that need to be read seven times to understand. i think chapter six was a good highlight of the book. everything else was meh. WHERE ARE MY REPARATIONS FOR HAVING TO READ THIS!!!!!
in short: this guy really needs an editor. badly.
word of advice for anyone reading this: if any stem major you know says they want to write a book, i beg you, please stop them.
Profile Image for Marks54.
1,331 reviews1,154 followers
January 10, 2018
This is a book about a research stream in social psychology attempting to explain the pernicious effects of stereotypes and stereotype risk on the behaviors of individuals susceptible to such risk. I did not expect to agree with, appreciate, or enjoy the book but my expectations were dashed and I devoured the book. Perhaps I was laboring under some stereotypes - or perhaps I did not do enough homework in advance.

The argument is not directly about stereotypes themselves - that members of some groups or another are all subject to some behavioral liability that prompts negative judgments about individuals solely on the basis of their membership in a given group - women and advanced mathematics, for example, or African Americans and a variety of issues. Racism and sexism remain in American society and sometimes appear to be enjoying a renaissance of sorts. If the presence of such societal stereotypes was the issue, this book would have little to add while recent news feeds almost certainly would.

The intuition behind this book comes into focus when the question is asked of what to do about these stereotypes and how to avoid replicating them in one’s own work and the work of one’s organizations. Universities are extraordinary in the time that they spend considering these problems and their histories in dealing with race and gender and other identities has been marked by missteps and controversies. Even when resources are provided, programs are planned, and when faculty, students, and administrators are trying to do the right thing, race and gender issues on campus are notoriously sticky and problems arise for even the most capable students who have received the best preparation for overcoming potential stereotypes and succeeding going forward.

The research of Steele and his colleagues is valuable for shedding light on how even the best students can be disadvantaged by the expectation that stereotypes are at work in a situation. Efforts to succeed in the face of potential stereotype risk can become self-defeating and impair the performance and development of the strongest individuals, not to mention more normal ones. What are the mechanisms by which stereotype risk works? Who is affected by this risk? What can be done - even if it is unlikely that societal disadvantages for key groups are unlikely to be remedied in the foreseeable future? How can stereotypes be identified for those affected and their influences on people reduced or eliminated? This is the core of this well written and important work.

This book is not what one would expect from typical social psychology approaches (I admit I have my own biases). Yes, individuals are studied, but the premise of the work is that these stereotypes and stereotype risks are shared among individuals and do not reside solely in the minds of subjects - they are “intersubjective”. These stereotypes may be more or less consciously recognized by individuals. The effects of interest do not require conscious recognition but are frequently counter-intuitive. A key intuition is that individuals do not want to risk being subsumed under some stereotype or another - for example that women cannot do complex math or building coding skills. To respond to that concern, individuals may well try too hard and actually not talk with other students. The fear of falling short is an individual one. By trying too hard and focusing on the stereotype, the result is a distraction effect that reduces the performance of individuals from what regular indicators (such as standardized tests) would predict. This in turn reinforces the stereotype, which leads to frustration and more overcompensation. Before long, the students supposedly best prepared for dealing with university life end up underperforming and leaving - and thus confirming the warnings of critics. For this to occur, it is not necessary for most of the individuals involved to be racist or sexist - the effects can come from the best of intentions.

The theory that Steele develops makes sense and how Steele and his colleagues developed their research program is impressive. Also important are their efforts at addressing these problems and improving the lives of people affected by stereotype risk.

By the way, one is tempted to see this as a book about race and gender identity and related issues and there is something to that. Steele is wonderful, however, in showing how the expansions of stereotypes to a wide range of ingroup - out group situations suggests that most of us can be influenced by these dynamics. For example, the ingroup versus outgroup logic could easily be applied to post-merger integration situations in which the employees of an acquired firm are devalued because they were employed by the target firm. The range of business and political situations where these dynamics might be found is potentially large.

I wonder what Professor Steele will do to update his work. This book was published in 2010 ended with much rumination about the Obama presidency. Well how things appear to have changed since then and especially since 2016. I have no doubt that these developments have not gone unnoticed by Professor Steele and I will try to find out more of his reactions.

Meanwhile, the book remains well worth reading.
Profile Image for Ruby.
14 reviews
April 17, 2023
A short, easy read on how stereotypes affect us more than we could ever expect them to be. Some reviews have criticised the repetitiveness of the book and while I agree it can be repetitive I think that the point of the book is worth repeating. It presents a thorough picture of the research in this area and I actually think that the author takes great care to plainly describe the research make sure that the concept is understood by all.
Profile Image for Ensiform.
1,337 reviews139 followers
July 11, 2019
Why do some African-American students do poorly in high-tier, traditionally white colleges? Why and under what circumstances do women under-perform on math tests, and Asian women perform well on math tests? Why do white sprinters do poorly when measured against their black peers? As the author notes, "there exists no group on earth that is not negatively stereotyped in some way: the old, the young, Northerners, Southerners, WASPs, computer whiz kids, Californians and so forth." Everyone has a stereotype to fight against. So, more to the point, what can we as a society do about these issues? The title of the book comes from a friend of the author, an African American who as a young man learned to whistle classical music when walking down the street so white people would adjust their view of him as cultured and nonviolent. That's one strategy, it turns out.

Chock full of the results of social and psychological experiments, but written in an accessible style for the layman, the book explains how people tend to focus on the most salient stereotype. That is, when female Asian math majors are in a class with men, they tend to second-guess themselves and fall prey to the "women are weak at math" stereotype. But if the image of the Asian math prodigy is close to their thoughts, they do well in relation to men. In short, performance is largely driven by expectations. Steele calls these expectations and conditions "identity contingency." In an eye-opening example, Steele how Sandra Day O'Connor felt intense pressure to not be seen through the lens of "the female justice." Once Ruth Bader Ginsburg joined, O"Connor felt that she could finally be "a" voice on the court, and not "the female" voice. Similarly, a white student in a largely non-white class typically is anxious not to be heard as the voice of the hegemonic, racist oppressor. Caring about performance in this way leads to poor performance, though "over-efforting" or just shutting down in an effort to avoid being seen altogether. This anxiety leads to cognitive load, which impairs performance, which increases anxiety. Instead of changing effort, Steele counsels changing strategies. Using self-affirmation exercises, inter-group conversations, and emphasizing that intelligence is a mutable, not fixed, characteristic (Carol Dweck's book is everywhere). I doubt that this Steele's research and solutions are going to crack the case and close the file on racism any time now, but institutions across America ought to take them to heart and implement his recommendations.
Profile Image for Baelor.
171 reviews43 followers
July 2, 2015
A short (and yet still too long) synthesis of studies around the idea of identity threat that contains interesting research but sadly fails utterly as a book.

Steele's thesis is important: prejudice and overt discrimination are not the only cause of disparities in performances between groups. In fact, fear about confirming a negative stereotype can consume valuable mental resources and depress performance (in both the short and long terms).

Now imagine that paragraph being written in different ways for two hundred pages with no quantitative data presented, only summaries about "improved performance" and "clear results." Steele cannot stop repeating himself and drawing the same comparisons over and over ("Remember Ted's experience in the African American political science class? This was just like that;" "...just like my experience as a graduate student at Ohio."). As a result, this book's main value is the bibliography, given that the content is little more than a series of wordy abstracts. It really could have been 20-25 pages with no loss of nuance.

Steele's prose is bland and formulaic. It was neither precise nor vivid, the worst of both the academic and pop culture worlds. There were also several types and sentence fragments.

Still, the book did present two explicit strategies for teachers (of which I am one) to help diminish identity threats in the classroom. First, have students affirm their sense of values. Second, focus on high standards and the ability of students to learn and to meet them (and provide feedback that accords with this description). Now you do not need to read the book. Seriously.
213 reviews1 follower
April 19, 2021
This was a poorly written book with a whole bunch of very similar examples, which were repeated and referred to over and over and over again. It could easily have made it's point in half the pages.

The book addresses stereotypes and how they affect how people learn. If you tell someone before a test that their particular stereotypical group doesn't do very well on this type of test, I'm not sure how you can be surprised when they don't do well, or that when they receive encouragement they do better. I guess the solution is to have teachers before each test say we are all equal and can preform well. The author also suggests that in acedemia students should work in groups to solve problems, and ask for help when needed. Talking through ideas is beneficial to the learning process. Teachers should take the time to encourage this as it should benefit all students.

Do stereotypes exist? Of course. As a society can we banish stereotyping? Of course not. We are all individuals with our own thoughts and ideas. We see how society works through our own unique experiences, so of course we will all feel inferior at some point. Our country is made up of a variety of groups, most of whom embrace their differences. So how are we supposed to celebrate those differences while at the same time want to be treated the same.

For those stereotypes that want to be eliminated, it will not happen overnight. If for example you want more women in the math field, which according to the author is predominately male, you need to make it more appealing to the younger generation of women to go into that field. They need to have women to look up to. As more and more women go into the math field it becomes more comfortable for the next generation to try it. As you can see, it will take a few generations for this change to occur. And you need women who are willing to forge the way for others.
Profile Image for Jill.
422 reviews220 followers
November 24, 2020
I think this is one of those semi-seminal texts that isn't exceptionally interesting to read. It's important, but like a lecture in an undergrad psych class -- you need to know this shit, it's important for what comes next, but it's framed (by the author's own almost-admission) as a bunch of journal articles. Like, Steele tries -- the narrative is cohesive, and we're following a clear arc of thinking. There are even some super non-descript characters (it's okay -- he's a psychologist, not a lit-boy). But it never coheres in that way really good non-fiction can.

So, don't expect the most life-changing read ever. If you have a base understanding of social justice, intersectionality, or critical race theory, almost none of this will be new to you. What might be new is the particular context for the experiments -- primarily, high-stakes testing. Since the development of a particular high-stakes test is my current jorb, this resonated pretty strongly with me; I still don't feel I exactly learned anything new, but I got the vocabulary to speak about some of the ideas my crew of researchers and I have had knocking around our heads. That's worth it. And I think if you're not entrenched in the high-stakes testing world, a lot of this might be quite, and terrifyingly, illuminating.

The one thing I'll say is that this was written in 2010 and it shows. If you're looking for a strong comment on privilege and race, you won't find it here. LGBTQ* issues aren't even mentioned. There's this weird through-thread of a confused White guy in an African-American studies class who we're for some reason supposed to feel bad for (personally I think that's intentional to placate ignorant White people -- "you feel stereotype threat too! now read this very important book and stop being so racist."). The conversation about post-racialism at the end, while not given any real credence, rings real depressing from the other side of the decade.

Still: there's lots to learn (and a lot you can sort of skim because it's repeated a few times). Don't expect more than summaries of experiments and a touch of commentary on them, but worth the read.
Profile Image for Katrina.
428 reviews11 followers
July 1, 2020
I appreciated that the studies discussed had lots of examples to make them relatable and easy to understand. Also covered how, why, and how can we fix this.
Book club
10 reviews1 follower
July 6, 2020
Pretty good, but could have mentioned more about stereotyping and struggles faced by queer people, especially since gay was one of the identities on the front cover
Still, overall it was very interesting to read and made me question my own experiences
11 reviews1 follower
July 9, 2019
Talked about some very important and very fascinating stuff to do with stereotype threat. A v good read, I just got bogged down in all the research and studies a bit.
Profile Image for Camille.
164 reviews
August 15, 2014
Social psychologist Claude M. Steele is the author of Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do. The book provides a description of the research and findings by Steele and his colleagues on stereotypes and identity and explains the “performance gap” between stereotyped and non-stereotyped groups. Their work has illuminated the phenomenon of “stereotype threat” - a fear that one’s behavior may in fact confirm the stereotypes related to one’s social category, e. g. race, sex, age, nationality, mental status, sexual orientation, religious/political affiliation, etc. When we care about our performance, a stereotype threat causes physiological and cognitive changes. Our blood pressure rises, we sweat, and the fear of confirming the stereotype causes our minds to race. As we monitor the threat, consider how likely our chances are of avoiding the threat and try to suppress thoughts about not performing well, our attention is diverted from the task at hand. This thought pattern adversely impacts our working memory, which will undermine our performance. Basically, the negative beliefs held by others about the social groups to which we belong cause us to sabotage our own performance. The threat has the largest impact on highly motivated people who are performing on the frontier of their skill level. The good news is that experiments have shown that reducing or eliminating the stereotype threat eliminates the performance gap. Steele provides suggestions about creating a safe environment:

1. Within a community, create a “critical mass” of people from the stereotyped group;
2. Make it clear that you value high standards and you expect the individuals in the stereotyped group to live up to them;
3. Provide opportunities for inter-group conversations that are framed as a learning experience so that people will free to share opinions, experience and feelings free of the possibility of being labeled;
4. Provide opportunities for individuals in the stereotyped group to write self-affirming statements;
5. Help individuals in the stereotyped group to express their frustrations about their setting while exposing them to individuals from their group who have had positive experiences and outcomes; and
6. Make it clear that the community values diversity.

At times, the writing is repetitive, but this is an important book, especially for educators.
Profile Image for Laura.
1,167 reviews121 followers
June 8, 2020
An elegant little book reviewing decades of research showing that people live up to the negative stereotypes about their groups when those stereotypes are invoked by the situation, and not when the situation is reframed to take the stereotype out. Girls are just as good at math as boys except when the situation reminds them that they’re not supposed to be; African Americans students are just as good at analyzing literature as white kids except when they’re reminded they aren’t; we’re all better problem solvers when we’re told the problem is designed not to trigger what ever society suggests is wrong with us than when we’re told nothing.

Made some practical suggestions on how to overcome the self defeating nature of stereotypes. My favorite; structuring experiences to remind people of their own values.

Still subtly heartbreaking. While the text did not dwell on it, the conclusion that these stereotypes had caused so much misery and loss lurks right beneath the pages. But I got pleasure out of seeing Larry Summers taken down again.
Profile Image for Keyton.
192 reviews
September 17, 2016
He ran through some interesting studies and had some interesting conclusions.

But! It was also strangely and annoyingly repetitive. Like, "here's an interesting thought - let me repeat it ad nauseum with slightly different wording over the next 20 pages"-repetitive. It probably should have been boiled down to an excellent blog post.
Profile Image for Melanie.
370 reviews4 followers
March 5, 2023
This was really interesting and thought provoking. I especially liked reading about the different experiments. Could have been improved by cutting down on the amount of repetition and spending more time on implications and recommendations.
Profile Image for Ann.
249 reviews2 followers
June 22, 2010
Interesting, in a Malcolm Gladwell sort of way.
Profile Image for Jessica.
1,174 reviews123 followers
November 4, 2019
I was familiar with the idea of "stereotype threat" before reading this book, but I was missing many of the key components that make it so fascinating and so pervasive. In an approach that not all readers will like but which I personally appreciated, Steele walks us step by step through his research, from the initial conception of the idea of stereotype threat to the experiments he and his colleagues designed, and he highlights in detail the experiments that were being done by other researchers at the same time to reinforce his ideas or to provide necessary context to flesh out or prune the theory.

For those not familiar with the concept: stereotype threat is when you are in a situation where a stereotype about some aspect of your identity (such as race or gender) is salient, and the threat of proving that stereotype right consumes some part of your brain power that, ironically, makes it more likely that you will live up to the stereotype. So women who are primed to think about the stereotype of women being bad at math will do worse on a math test than those who aren't primed or who are told that the test doesn't measure individual ability. Other stereotypes frequently referenced in the research include that black students do worse academically than white students, that blacks are worse at golf than whites, that whites are worse at running than blacks, and that whites will say something inappropriate when talking about race with blacks. There's a great episode of the Hidden Brain podcast talking about how Annie Duke used the stereotype of women being bad at poker to fool her opponents.

There were two elements of this book that I appreciated most. First, Steele carefully explores alternate theories in order to show that particular results are due to stereotype threat and not due to innate differences in ability or explicit external biases. As he says near the end, prejudice is still an issue in our society today, but even if you eliminated everyone's prejudice, you'd still be left with stereotype threat that would perpetuate apparent ability gaps. Second, Steele uses his research and that of his colleagues to uncover a wealth of possible ways to combat stereotype threat. In this way, the book is incredibly encouraging; while uprooting bias is also necessary work, it's much easier and more effective to focus on reducing stereotype threat through the approaches he illustrates. And ultimately, this may help to reduce bias; when minority students do not have to devote brain power to worrying about their academic performance proving a stereotype about the intelligence of minorities, and when white people don't have to worry that engaging people of color in conversation will prove a stereotype about racist white people, then we end up with a society where biases are more easily broken down because you are interacting more often with people who are different than you and seeing less evidence of apparent differences.

This book is a valuable complement to reading about bias and privilege. We can't ignore the realities of both conscious and unconscious bias, but understanding stereotype threat and the ways to combat it can help provide additional tools for creating a more inclusive and equitable world.
293 reviews2 followers
March 3, 2021
Stereotyping other people (for example, "clueless old white guy") is bad. Even when the stereotype is "good" ("Asian Americans are smart and hard-working"), it is dehumanizing and interferes with honest communication. Yeah, we know that.

This book looks at stereotyping from another angle: How do we react to the threat of being stereotyped? In the title example, a young Black man notices that when he comes across white people while walking on the sidewalk, they betray fear in subtle--or not--ways. ("Young Black males are violent."). He finds that if he is whistling classical music, white people don't apply the stereotype to him.

For many, maybe most people, stereotyping is not conscious. That means it is difficult to detect and counteract. For me, the fascination of this book is how the author follows up on the whistling observation and designs experiments to identify the effect of stereotyping on the victim and what strategies disarm it.

While the book discusses numerous stereotypes, the experiments center on a couple of situations. One of them is that minority students underachieve in academic settings, especially at highly selective colleges. Familiar explanations include socioeconomic factors, culture that doesn't encourage academic performance, unequal access to quality pre-college instruction, discrimination in grading. And yes, the now-discredited idea that Black people aren't as smart as white people.

But could a person's desire to avoid stereotyping actually degrade performance? Spoiler, here: Yes. Consider this example: A college student enrolls in an African-American history class as the only white. In class, he doesn't understand something but doesn't ask about it for fear of looking oblivious or being offensive. He doesn't participate in discussions except when they are "safe." Is he at a disadvantage, grade-wise? Yes.

Consider this example: A Black student enrolls in a European history class as the only Black. In class, she doesn't understand something but doesn't ask about it for fear of looking dumb or uneducated. She doesn't participate in discussions except when she is completely sure of her facts. Is she at a disadvantage, grade-wise? Yes.

Avoiding stereotypes is more than a behavioral phenomenon. The book shows that people have physical reactions--distraction, elevated blood pressure, perspiration--when exposed to the threat of stereotyping.

Another situation that the book explores thoroughly is the stereotype that women aren't as good at math as men. The observations and conclusions about the threat of stereotype are the same.

Cruelly, the more motivated a person is to succeed, the more damaging the reaction to stereotype threat. It's our old friend, Fight or Flee. The organism's resources are directed to physical survival and away from higher level brain function.

As I said, I'm fascinated by the scientific method to explore these ideas. But I'm delighted by the low-cost, relatively easy ways to address the problem that are offered in the book. We can do this!

Kudos to the author for writing a short, lively book about race without triggering defensiveness. Also, he is scrupulous and generous in crediting his colleagues. READ THIS BOOK!

190 reviews
July 12, 2020
It seems that some people have a bit of an issue with the very specific focus of this book. However, as a math teacher in a fairly diverse school, I must say that it hit all the right points. The research is certainly repetitive, but I think it is done to get the point across that the observations are confirmed by more than one experiment. This is so important in a society overwhelmed by "facts" - just because someone tells you something is true - even if it's from research! - doesn't make it true. You need to have corroborating evidence, and even then, you can never be 100% sure. The author works very diligently to get this point across, and I greatly respect him for doing so. I especially value the last few chapters that emphasize the impact of stereotype threat on conversations about race. In the time in which we find ourselves, we need to be reminded of this over and over again. We will never make progress if people don't feel that they can even have conversations around race without being ostracized or attacked. This book is important, it's accessible, and I believe that many people should read it.
Profile Image for Chris Pratt.
39 reviews
May 25, 2021
I had a few “aha” moments while reading this book that made up for the few times where his conclusions from a particular experiment didn’t seem entirely logical to me.

A few random highlights: Looking at the behavior of others solely in terms of the external factors affecting them is missing a crucial perspective - the actor’s perspective (vs the observer’s). Having a “colorblind” hiring policy (hiring the best people without taking race into consideration at all) vs valuing and hiring specifically for diversity and the benefits it provides.

Towards the end of the book I was ready to just be done with it, although I’m definitely glad I read it. Thinking about identity threats and their effects is more personally provocative than thinking about racism and explicit prejudice, because I consider myself to be a non-racist and not prejudiced. My big takeaway from this book is: people are routinely effected (negatively and subconsciously) by contingencies related to their identity (race, gender, etc.) and there are things I can do to lessen the effects of these contingencies.
Profile Image for arjn.
59 reviews12 followers
October 14, 2019
First off, Steele's research seems rock solid. He repeats more or less the same results, each time with slightly different (and more general) implications. Sometimes the results seem too "neat" to be true but as Steele notes, the only thing a scientist can do in a situation like that reproduce his results convincingly. And Steele does that more than enough times.

Stereotype Threat is a situational predicament in which people are or feel themselves to be at risk of conforming to stereotypes about their social group.

1. Women, when reminded of their gender identity, tend to do 4-5 points worse than men on math tests. When reminded of they were from Stanford, they do the same as men.
2. Blacks similarly do worse than whites when they're told a sports test judges "intelligence". They perform about the same as whites when told that the test is just another "task". They do better than whites when told the test judges "natural athletic ability".

Prerequisite for experiencing stereotype threat: You need to care about your performance

Stereotype threat (ST) is a general phenomenon: For the French, social class might be a point of ST.

How to create stereotype threat
=> create a situation of threat
1. How Steele did it - Whites did worse on worse on maths tests when told that this test is "one where Asians do better".
2. Tajfel's over-estimator and under-estimator groups were random labels but it still led boys to discriminate against the other group, sometimes even at the cost of their own profit (pg 77)

Amin Maalouf thesis in "In The Name of Identity"
(right now my understanding of contingency = social pressure on that identity)
1. People often see themselves in terms of whichever one of their identities is most under attack. And slowly, it invades the person's whole identity.
2. The sense of having a given social identity arises from having to deal with important identity contingencies.
3. What raises a characteristic to a social identity are the identity's contengencies. The more threatening the contingency, the stronger the probability of it becoming a social identity)

Comer's advice for dealing with identity contingencies
If it happens one time, ignore it.
If it happens two times, ignore it.
If it happens three times, let all hell break loose.
Why it works: Reduces the pressure on the child to interpret if a "cue" was threatening or just a mistake.

1. WHAT: women ‘over-effort’ when doing math tests and did better than men on easier tasks, but worse on difficult tasks. Similarly with the black kid who wouldn’t give up a difficult class even though everyone else was. He didn’t want to confirm stereotypes, and so adage “A black guy gotta work twice as hard to be at the same place” might be true for the wrong reasons. They ‘re working extra on USELESS work to stave off ID threat. But the improved performance of woman on easier math tests (when task is manageable, ST pressure acts as a positive stress) show that “ST could be harnessed for achievement” (O’Brien and Crandall).
2. WHY: caused by ID threat

We mistake one emotion for another:
1. The experiment where a guy crosses a hanging bridge and is greeted by an attractive girl/boy, and mistakes the anxiety for attraction with the girl but not with the guy (don’t call back).
2. We might be mistaking identity threat for _______

Physiological confirmation of stereotype threat
1. Anxiety measurably goes up under ST (even when people don’t report feeling any different). They measured Mean Arterial Pressure (MAP – check this full form)
2. The ingenious heartbeat-interval experiment –
a. hard task without ST => worse performance on test (measured with heartbeat interval)
b. hard task with ST => constructive engagement on test
3. Long term exposure to Identity Threat:
a. John Henryism – named after the tale
b. The average blood pressure (nationally in US) in black males is higher than white males
c. Reason could most probably be long-term exposure to ST

Implications of physiological confirmation
1. A mind trying to overcome ST leaves little mental capacity for anything else
2. A model of the racing mind (Pg 124)

How many of these racially representative roles does star wars need?
A “critical mass”: could be just two(the female supreme court advocate) or could be more (campus)

What determines how much ID threat a person feels in a setting?
The “cues” that signal a contingency to that identity (critical mass is a cue – “I always count”)

Cohen’s work: How to give feedback to a person from a different race?
Neutral --- NO
Positive --- NO
“I used high standards while grading this” ---YES

Reducing ID threat
1. Change the way you give critical feedback.
2. Improve a group’s critical mass in a setting
3. Foster inter-group conversations
4. Allow minority students to affirm their truest sense of self
5. Help students develop a narrative about the setting that explains the frustrations, while projecting positive engagement and success in the setting.
6. Immigration as a tool for escaping identity contengencies (Anatole Broyard, the black american woman who moved to Paris)

“Excellence seemed to have a face”

What about intersectional identity threat (black women, etc)? Are they doubly threatened?

Stereotype threat has a real effect on people. It causes a racing mind and full complement of physiological and behavorial effects. We know that people aren’t much aware of all this as it’s happening, or at least don’t want to acknowledge it. And we can do things to mitigate these threats to an extent.

Update (14 Oct 2019): https://twitter.com/Russwarne/status/...
Profile Image for Sintija Valucka.
78 reviews12 followers
July 29, 2020
Mēs dzīvojam stereotipu valstībā. Tie ne tikai ietekmē, kā mēs redzam pasauli sev apkārt, bet arī to, kā mēs redzam paši sevi.
Lai gan mēs paši sevi uzskatām par pilnigi autonomiem indivīdiem, pētījumi pierāda pretējo gan attiecībā uz mūsu rīcību konkrētās situācijās, gan attiecībā uz to, kādu karjeru un kādus draugus izvēlamies.
Es zinu, ka arī man pašai ir stereotipu kaudzīte, nav viegli vienmēr pasauli tvert ar superobjektīvu skatījumu, jo tomēr mūsu ikdienas pieredze atstāj iespaidu uz to, ko un kā mēs uztveram. Mums kā dzīvām būtnēm ir raksturīgi vispārināt un izdarīt secinājumus no dotās informācijas. Vienīgais, ko varam darīt, censties paplašināt informācijas apjomu, no kura izdarīt secinājumus.

Grāmata palika bez zvaigznītēm, jo, lai gan idejiski tā bija interesanta, piemēri bija pāaaarāk plaši izklāstīti, daudz atkārtojās, un lasīšanas prieks kaut kur pazuda.
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