Reducing the Effects of Stereotype Threat on African American College Students by Shaping Theories of Intelligence,
African American college students tend to obtain lower grades than their White counterparts, even when they enter college with equivalent test scores. Past research suggests that negative stereotypes impugning Black students' intellectual abilities play a role in this underperformance. Awareness of these stereotypes can psychologically threaten African Americans, a phenomenon known as "stereotype threat" (Steele & Aronson, 1995), which can in turn provoke responses that impair both academic performance and psychological engagement with academics. An experiment was performed to test a method of helping students resist these responses to stereotype threat. Specifically, students in the experimental condition of the experiment were encouraged to see intelligence--the object of the stereotype--as a malleable rather than fixed capacity. This mind-set was predicted to make students' performances less vulnerable to stereotype threat and help them maintain their psychological engagement with academics, both of which could help boost their college grades. Results were consistent with predictions. The African American students (and, to some degree, the White students) encouraged to view intelligence as malleable reported greater enjoyment of the academic process, greater academic engagement, and obtained higher grade point averages than their counterparts in two control groups.