African American College Students' Performance and Experience in Academic Settings: Implicit Theories as Moderators of Stereotype Threat
Past research has found that stereotype threat is partly responsible for the underachievement of African Americans (Steele & Aronson, 1995). Research has also found that what a student thinks about intelligence can affect his or her academic performance. There are two main theories that one can hold about the malleability of intelligence. One can either be an entity theorist or believe that intelligence is fixed, or one can be an incremental theorist and believe that intelligence is malleable. In this study, African American undergraduates filled out surveys to assess their theories about intelligence, race, and moral character. Afterwards, the students were presented with stereotype threat in the form of an essay and completed questionnaires to assess their experience in a summer research program. This research demonstrated whether there was a correlation between the implicit theories that African American college students' hold about intelligence, race and moral character, and their academic performance and experiences. We predicted that students given the racial essay would experience stereotype threat, and students who were given the neutral essay would not. Furthermore, we wanted to demonstrate if these implicit theories serve as moderators for stereotype threat. We predicted that students who held entity theories would be more strongly affected by stereotype threat than students who held incremental theories. We found that students in the neutral condition (i.e., no stereotype threat) performed significantly better than students in the experimental condition (i.e., stereotype threat). However, no significant effects were shown with the other dependent variables; there was no significant interaction between race, moral character, and academic performance. Also, contrary to our predictions, entity theorists performed better in the given tests, even after being exposed to stereotype threat. It should be noted that the sample size, in the experimental condition, for participants holding entity theories was much larger (n=5) than that of incremental theorists (n=1). Future research should try to obtain samples with equal number of entity and incremental theorists to gain a better understanding of the difference between these two groups.
Grambling State University
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