Literacy 7-12

Systems Change
Literacy 7-12 > Factors > Stereotype Threat

Stereotype Threat

Factor Connections

Hover to see how factors connect to Stereotype Threat. Then click connected factors to explore strategies related to multiple factors.

In our society, there are many stereotypes that exist about the academic abilities of learners based on characteristics such as their race, gender, disability, and socioeconomic status. Stereotype Threat suggests that people may underperform in many academic areas, including reading and writing, when faced with this prospect of being judged.

Main Ideas

Stereotype Threat occurs when a negative stereotype that exists in a culture about a group results in suboptimal academic performance by people who identify with that group. This occurs when the individual is aware of the stereotype, even if they do not personally experience prejudiced behavior toward them by teachers or peers. Students are more likely to experience this negative effect on their test performance when they are told the test is diagnostic of their intellectual abilities. Even individuals who do not believe the stereotype is true about their group will often still experience the negative effects of Stereotype Threat.

People, including educators, can hold two types of stereotypes:

  • People may be unaware of their implicit stereotypes, but these beliefs can still impact their behaviors towards and interpretations of others in an unconscious manner.
  • People are aware of their explicit stereotypes, which can also impact their behaviors towards and interpretations of others.

In the United States, Stereotype Threat can impact literacy performance for multiple groups:

  • Certain groups, such as Latino/Latina and Black students, are at risk of negative stereotypes of reading and writing ability.
  • Boys are at risk of Stereotype Threat because of the general belief that girls are better at reading and writing.
  • Students who have learning disabilities are also at risk for being stigmatized.
  • Negative stereotypes impact reading performance in students who most highly value achievement in the literacy domain.

Students are forming their identity during adolescence. As they grow older they are more able to engage in deeper reflection about their own personal racial and ethnic identity and how it fits into society. This makes adolescents particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of stereotype threat.

Learn More

  • Stereotype Threat: Free CE-credit webinar discussing research-based strategies to support students facing Stereotype Threats

View Measures and References