Dealing With Negative Stereotypes in Sports: The Role of Cognitive Anxiety When Multiple Identities Are Activated in Sensorimotor Tasks

in Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
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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.

Sarah E. Martiny is with the Department of Psychology, University of Tromsø—The Arctic University of Norway, Tromsø, Norway. Ilka H. Gleibs is with the Department of Psychology, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, U.K. Elizabeth J. Parks-Stamm is with Grand Canyon University, Phoenix, Arizona, USA. Torsten Martiny-Huenger is with the Department of Psychology, University of Tromsø—The Arctic University of Norway, Tromsø, Norway. Laura Froehlich is with the Department of Psychology, University of Hagen, Hagen, Germany. Anna-Lena Harter is with the Department of Psychology and Education, Ulm University, Ulm, Germany. Jenny Roth is with the Department of Psychology, Technische Universität Dresden, Dresden, Germany.

Address author correspondence to Sarah E. Martiny at sarah.martiny@uit.no.