Recall that the Mental Rotations Test has shown gender differences in the past. We discussed the 1990 study (Sex differences in visual-spatial ability: The role of performance factors, Goldstein, Haldane and Mitchell,
Memory and Cognition, 1990 , 18 (5) 546-550) showing that ratio scores showed less of a gender difference on the MRT, and that untimed MRT exams also showed less of a gender difference.
We then talked about a 1993 study (Performance factors and gender-related differences in spatial ability: Another assessment, Stumpf, Memory and Cognition, 1993, 21 (6) 828-836) analyzing
data from 15 different visual-spatial tests. They were able to duplicate the MRT results, but found that increased time / ratios did not reduce gender differences in the other 14 tests.
Here is an example of mental rotation intellectual task
examine figure on left; which two of the 4 alternatives (label the alternatives a, b, c and d going from left to right) match it?
a and b
a and c
a and d
b and c
b and d
c and d
Here is an example of mental rotation intellectual task (although it is slightly different than the usual test where you identify which 2 of 4 figures match a given figure):
examine figure on left; which one of 3 alternatives match it?
none of the above
Which of the following are true based on the classroom readings on
Claude Steele said:
Imagine a black and a white
man meeting for the first time. Because the black person knows the stereotypes of his group, he attempts to deflect those negative traits,
finding ways of trying to communicate, in effect, 'Don't think of me as incompetent.' The white, for his part, is busy deflecting the stereotypes of
his group: 'Don't think of me as a racist.' Every action becomes loaded with the potential of confirming the stereotype, and you end up with two
people struggling with these phantoms they're only half aware of. The discomfort and tension is often mistaken for racial animosity."
The parallel is instructive. The white person who has felt how much energy it takes to communicate the message "I am not the racist person
you might think I am" can perhaps also understand how distracting such an effort might be during a standardized test.
Steele's idea of stereotype vulnerability
is that students have to contend with this whisper of inferiority at the moment when their mental abilities
are most taxed. In trying not to give credence to the stereotype, Steele theorizes, the students may redouble their efforts only to work too quickly
In more than a dozen experiments over the past four years, Steele and his colleagues were able to
depress the performance of high-achieving African American men and women of all races by
subtly implying that well-known stereotypes about those groups intellectual abilities might apply to the test they were about to take. In control groups where similar students were given no reason to suspect that the
demeaning stereotypes would apply to their performance, African Americans performed as well
as whites on very challenging tests.
Steele found that everyone is susceptible to stereotype vulnerability: in one experiment, white
males unaccustomed to being intellectually stigmatized were told that Asians achieved higher
scores than Americans on a mathematics test they were asked to take. This group achieved lower
scores than a control group of white males who were not told anything about previous test
There have also been experiments showing that stereotype vulnerability can negatively affect women who believe a
given math test shows gender differences
The cues that can spark the vulnerability can be subtle-like suggesting the test can measure ability or making students mark down their races before the test begins. While there might be no perceptible bias in a given test or in the test-taking situation, an exam might still be weighted against some students because the possibility of performing badly has a more devastating meaning.
. As numerous studies have demonstrated, standardized
tests such as the SAT consistently underpredict the performance of women in college. The
stereotype vulnerability research suggests that the inherent gender bias of the SAT is made worse
by female test-takers awareness of that bias.