To investigate menstruation as a stereotype threat that could have the effect of diminishing cognitive performance, 92 undergraduate women from a small, urban university in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States (US) completed two cognitive tasks, a Stroop test, and an SAT-based mathematics test, as well as a Menstrual History Questionnaire (MH) and the Menstrual Attitudes Questionnaire (Brooks-Gunn and Ruble 1980). The MH served as the menstruation stereotype threat. Some women were also presented with positive information about menstruation, which served as the positive prime. The order of materials varied to yield four conditions: Menstruation Threat/No Positive Prime—MH first, then cognitive tasks; Menstruation Threat/Positive Prime—MH first, then positive information, then cognitive tests; Positive Prime/No Menstruation Threat—positive information first, then cognitive tasks, then MH; and No Positive Prime/No Menstruation Threat—cognitive tests first, then MH. In all four conditions, participants completed the Menstrual Attitudes Questionnaire last. Results indicated that participants receiving the Menstruation Threat completed significantly fewer items on the Stroop test. In addition, subjects in the No Positive Prime/Menstruation Threat condition performed more poorly on the Stroop the closer they were to their next period. This effect was absent for the Positive Prime/Menstruation Threat condition and reversed for participants in the Positive Prime/No Menstruation Threat. This suggests that positive priming moderates the relationship between closeness to menstruation and cognitive performance. Implications of the results for addressing stigma associated with menstruation are discussed.
Sex Roles – Springer Journals
Published: May 13, 2012
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