Stereotype threat occurs when knowledge of a negative stereotype about a social group leads to less-than-optimal performance by members of that group. Although the stereotype threat phenomenon has been extensively studied in academic and cognitively-based tasks, it has received little attention in sport. This article reviews the existent literature on stereotype threat and discusses its implications for sports performance. The causal mechanisms of stereotype threat in sport are examined, followed by a discussion of why the cognitive processes thought to govern negative stereotype-induced performance decrements in academic and cognitively based tasks (e.g., GRE or SAT tests) may not unequivocally extend to sport skills. Finally, factors that should moderate the impact of stereotype threat in sport are outlined. Because stereotype threat has important consequences for athletics (e.g., impairing athletic performance, maintaining the underrepresentation of minority athletes in certain sports), it is a phenomenon that deserves greater attention in sport and exercise psychology research.
Sian L. Beilock and Allen R. McConnell
Daniel M. Smith and Sarah E. Martiny
achievement settings is called stereotype threat (ST). Since the seminal paper by Steele and Aronson ( 1995 ), the detrimental ST effect has been demonstrated in numerous empirical studies, many of which are cited throughout this paper, using cognitive or motor performance tasks. The effect of ST is insidious
Aïna Chalabaev, Jeanick Brisswalter, Rémi Radel, Stephen A. Coombes, Christopher Easthope and Corentin Clément-Guillotin
Previous evidence shows that stereotype threat impairs complex motor skills through increased conscious monitoring of task performance. Given that one-step motor skills may not be susceptible to these processes, we examined whether performance on a simple strength task may be reduced under stereotype threat. Forty females and males performed maximum voluntary contractions under stereotypical or nullified-stereotype conditions. Results showed that the velocity of force production within the first milliseconds of the contraction decreased in females when the negative stereotype was induced, whereas maximal force did not change. In males, the stereotype induction only increased maximal force. These findings suggest that stereotype threat may impair motor skills in the absence of explicit monitoring processes, by influencing the planning stage of force production.
Priscila Lopes Cardozo and Suzete Chiviacowsky
Several studies have demonstrated the detrimental effects of stereotype threat on the performance of academic and motor skills, while little attention has been given to the effects of stereotypical conditions on motor learning. The objective of the current study was to investigate the effects of overweight stereotype threat on women learning a balance task. Participants practiced 10 trials of a dynamic balance task and their learning was observed in a retention test one day later. Before practice, the stereotype threat (ST) group received instructions introducing the task as influenced by individual differences, whereby overweight people usually present worse outcomes. For the reduced stereotype threat group (RST), instructions informed them that the task was not influenced by individual differences. Participants also filled out a questionnaire measuring intrinsic motivation. The results showed that performance and learning, as well as perceived competence, were enhanced for participants of the RST group compared with participants of the ST group. The findings provide evidence that overweight stereotype threat affects the learning of motor skills.
Aïna Chalabaev, Philippe Sarrazin, Jeff Stone and François Cury
This research investigated stereotype threat effects on women’s performance in sports and examined the mediation of this effect by achievement goals. The influence of two stereotypes—relative to the poor athletic ability and the poor technical soccer ability of women—were studied. Fifty-one female soccer players were randomly assigned to one of three conditions, introducing the task as diagnostic of athletic ability, technical soccer ability, or sports psychology. Next, they filled out a questionnaire measuring achievement goals and performed a soccer dribbling task. Results showed that compared with the control condition, females’ performance significantly decreased in the athletic ability condition and tended to decrease in the technical soccer ability condition. Moreover, participants endorsed a performance-avoidance (relative to performance-approach) goal when the stereotypes were activated. However, this goal endorsement was not related to performance. The implications of these results for understanding the role of stereotypes in gender inequalities in sports are discussed.
Maxime Deshayes, Corentin Clément-Guillotin and Raphaël Zory
According to the stereotype threat model ( Steele, 1997 ), people may underperform on a task when thinking about the negative performance expectations for their own group (for a review in the sports field, see Chalabaev, Sarrazin, Fontayne, Boiché, & Clément-Guillotin, 2013 ; Gentile, Boca
Ken Hodge and Wayne Smith
This case study focused on pressure, stereotype threat, choking, and the coping experiences of the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team during the period from 2004-2011 leading into their success at the 2011 Rugby World Cup (RWC). Employing a narrative approach this case study examined public expectation, pressure, and coach-led coping strategies designed to “avoid the choke” by the All Blacks team. An in-depth interview was completed with one of the All Blacks’ coaches and analyzed via collaborative thematic analysis (Riessman, 2008). In addition multiple secondary data sources (e.g., coach & player autobiographies; media interviews) were analyzed via holistic-content analysis (Lieblich et al., 1998). Collectively these analyses revealed five key themes: public expectation and pressure, learning from 2007 RWC, coping with RWC pressure, decision-making under pressure, and avoiding the choke. Practical recommendations are offered for team sport coaches with respect to coping with pressure and avoiding choking.
Sarah E. Martiny, Ilka H. Gleibs, Elizabeth J. Parks-Stamm, Torsten Martiny-Huenger, Laura Froehlich, Anna-Lena Harter and Jenny Roth
Based on research on stereotype threat and multiple identities, this work explores the beneficial effects of activating a positive social identity when a negative identity is salient on women’s performance in sports. Further, in line with research on the effects of anxiety in sports, we investigate whether the activation of a positive social identity buffers performance from cognitive anxiety associated with a negative stereotype. Two experiments tested these predictions in field settings. Experiment 1 (N = 83) shows that the simultaneous activation of a positive (i.e., member of a soccer team) and a negative social identity (i.e., woman) led to better performance than the activation of only a negative social identity for female soccer players. Experiment 2 (N = 46) demonstrates that identity condition moderated the effect of cognitive anxiety on performance for female basketball players. Results are discussed concerning multiple identities’ potential for dealing with stressful situations.
Anne Krendl, Izzy Gainsburg and Nalini Ambady
Although the effects of negative stereotypes and observer pressure on athletic performance have been well researched, the effects of positive stereotypes on performance, particularly in the presence of observers, is not known. In the current study, White males watched a video either depicting Whites basketball players as the best free throwers in the NBA (positive stereotype), Black basketball players as the best free throwers in the NBA (negative stereotype), or a neutral sports video (control). Participants then shot a set of free throws, during which half the participants were also videotaped (observer condition), whereas the other half were not (no observer condition). Results demonstrated that positive stereotypes improved free throw performance, but only in the no observer condition. Interestingly, observer pressure interacted with the positive stereotype to lead to performance decrements. In the negative stereotype condition, performance decrements were observed both in the observer and no observer conditions.
Alexander Brian Yu, Thomas Nguyen and Trent Petrie
As racially diverse, early-career sport psychology consultants (SPCs), we reflect on our experiences working with collegiate athletes and coaches whose racial/ethnic status were different from our own. Our reflections cover (a) the external effects of stereotypes, presence (and pernicious effects) of microaggressions, and strategies for effectively coping with such transgressions; (b) stereotype threat and how Jeremy Lin’s entry into the NBA affected our self-perceptions; and (c) a call to action to further promote a multicultural approach to sport psychology training, research, and practice. In sharing these thoughts, we hope to promote further dialogue in the emerging field of cultural sport psychology.