Stereotype threat, identity salience, and spatial reasoning

Matthew S. McGlone, Joshua Aronson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Stereotype threat research provides insight into how the low standardized test scores of students from stigmatized social groups may derive in part from the negative performance expectations about these groups. Because these students belong to many social groups, one means of mitigating the threat is to remind them of their membership in groups for which there are positive performance expectations. We tested this hypothesis by priming different social identities among undergraduates prior to administering a standardized test of spatial reasoning, the Vandenberg Mental Rotation Test. We found that females who were primed to contemplate their identity as students at a selective private college performed better than those who were primed to contemplate their sex or a test-irrelevant identity. For males, priming their sex increased performance relative to the test-irrelevant or private college student primes. These results demonstrate the potential of reminding students of their achieved identities (e.g., private college student) in an effort to subdue evaluation apprehension created by negative stereotypes about their ascribed identities, such as being female in the case of spatial abilities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)486-493
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Applied Developmental Psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2006


  • Identity
  • Sex differences
  • Spatial performance
  • Stereotype threat

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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