The relation of stereotype threat to African American and Latino performance on the WAIS-IV : an intelligence malleability intervention approach
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Stereotype threat is defined as a sociopsychological threat evoked by an evaluative situation in which a negative stereotype about one's group could be confirmed (Steele, 1997). While the deleterious effects of stereotype threat have been demonstrated numerous times in laboratory settings (McKay, Doverspike, Bowen-Hilton, & Martin, 2002; Ngyuen & Ryan, 2008; Spencer, Steele & Quinn, 1999; Steele & Aronson, 1995), generalization to actual testing situations has been limited (Stricker & Ward, 2004). The current study sought to increase ecological validity by examining stereotype threat among racial/ethnic minority students undergoing assessment using the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-IV (WAIS-IV) without explicit priming. Another aim was to reduce stereotype threat by emphasizing the malleability of intelligence, as recommended by previous researchers (Aronson, Fried, & Good, 2002; Good, Aronson, & Inzlicht, 2003). Additionally, the relationship of ethnic identity to stereotype threat and test performance and the role of anxiety, a proposed mechanism of stereotype threat, were examined. Participants were also interviewed about their experiences of stereotype threat using a phenomenological approach. A 2(condition) x 3(race/ethnicity) experimental design was used, and 138 college students were randomized to the control or malleability conditions. Due to manipulation failure, the hypothesis that African and Latino American students would experience less stereotype threat and perform better on the WAIS-IV in the malleability condition could not be tested. Qualitative findings suggested that while participants endorsed perceptions of stereotype threat in general societal settings, they did not report stereotype threat while undergoing the WAIS-IV. The hypothesis that ethnic identity moderates the relationship between stereotype threat and performance received mixed support: ethnic identity-affirmation interacted with perceived stereotype threat on Digit Span, but all other interactions were nonsignificant. Lastly, the hypothesis that anxiety mediates the relationship between perceived stereotype threat and WAIS-IV performance was not supported. However, post-hoc analyses suggested that perceived stereotype threat mediates the relationship of anxiety and WAIS-IV performance. Correlational results revealed that perceived stereotype threat and stereotype vulnerability were related to WAIS-IV scores. In addition, students of color reported greater test and state anxiety than their European American counterparts. Implications for researchers, test administrators, and admissions officers are discussed.