Causes of Stereotype Threat Effects How does stereotype threat cause all these effects? It does so in multiple ways. Stereotype threat has been shown to do each of the following to people: trigger physiological arousal and stress; drain cognitive resources; cause a loss of focus to the task at hand because of attempts to suppress thoughts about the relevant stereotype; impair working memory; activate negative thoughts, worry, feelings of dejection, and concerns about trying to avoid failure rather than trying to achieve success; and elicit neural activity biased toward negative, stereotype-confirming feed- back. That’s a long list, and it might be tempting to just skim over it. But go over the list again and think about trying to do your best on a difficult test while all of these things are happening to you—that should give you some sense of how stereotype threat can undermine people’s performance and ambitions.
The good news is that the research on this subject also gives us reason to hope. In each of the examples of stereotype threat we have discussed, the under- performance is significantly or completely eliminated when the stereotype threat is reduced. Social psychologists have identified several ways to reduce or protect against these threats, and we will focus on them in the final section of this chap- ter. But before we get to the solutions to stereotype threat and the other problems we have been discussing thus far in this chapter, we turn next to the social psy- chological causes at the root of these problems.
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