Sex Roles, Vol. 53, Nos. 9/10, November 2005 (
Effects of Salient Multiple Identities on Women’s
Performance Under Mathematics Stereotype Threat
Dana M. Gresky,
Laura L. Ten Eyck,
Charles G. Lord,
and Rusty B. McIntyre
Previous research on affective extremity and social identity complexity suggested that
women’s mathematics stereotype threat might be alleviated by reminding individual women
of their multiple roles and identities, most of which would presumably be unrelated and thus
impervious to negative stereotypes regarding math performance. To test this hypothesis, we
primed the relevant stereotype and then asked men and women college students to draw self-
concept maps with many or few nodes. When they drew no maps or maps with few nodes,
highly math-identiﬁed women scored signiﬁcantly worse than highly math-identiﬁed men on
a subsequent Graduate Record Examination-like math test, but when they drew maps with
many nodes, they scored as well as those men. Theoretical and practical implications of the
results are discussed.
KEY WORDS: stereotype threat; social identity; self-complexity.
Stereotype threat can be deﬁned as “the im-
mediate situational threat that derives from the
broad dissemination of negative stereotypes about
one’s group—the threat of possibly being judged and
treated stereotypically, or of possibly self-fulﬁlling
such a stereotype” (Steele & Aronson, 1995, p. 798).
When a situation creates stereotype threat, members
of the negatively stereotyped group perform poorly
relative to their actual level of competence (Steele,
1997, 1998). Performance deﬁcits from stereotype
threat have been found for African Americans
on verbal tests (Blascovich, Spencer, Quinn, &
Steele, 2001; Steele & Aronson, 1995), Latino/a stu-
dents on spatial ability tasks (Gonzales, Blanton,
& Williams, 2002), people of lower income on ver-
bal tests (Croizet & Claire, 1998), Black students
in tasks that require “sports intelligence” (Stone,
Lynch, Sjomeling, & Darley, 1999), White students
in tasks that require “natural athletic ability” (Stone
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et al., 1999), and women on mathematics tests
(Inzlicht & Ben-Zeev, 2000; Keller & Dauenheimer,
2003; Quinn & Spencer, 2001; Schmader, Johns, &
Barquissau, 2004; Spencer, Steele, & Quinn, 1999).
Researchers have discovered several effective
techniques to alleviate the performance deﬁcits as-
sociated with stereotype threat. These techniques in-
clude lessening the importance of the task (Croizet
& Claire, 1998; Steele & Aronson, 1995), reducing
the salience of the stereotype (Spencer et al., 1999),
claiming the test is not susceptible to the stereotype
(Walsh, Hickey, & Duffy, 1999), providing excuses
for poor performance (Brown & Josephs, 1999; Stone
et al., 1999), reducing opportunities to self-handicap
(Keller, 2002), altering ability conceptions from static
to ﬂuid (Aronson, Fried, & Good, 2002), and pre-
senting group members with information that sug-
gests that members of their group can be success-
ful on the task (Marx & Roman, 2002; McIntyre,
Paulson, & Lord, 2003).
The alleviation technique of particular in-
terest for the present research involves making
salient other social identities. In a relevant study
(Shih, Pittinsky, & Ambady, 1999, Study 1), Asian
American women were reminded either of their
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