Stereotype Threat

Stereotype threat refers to “the risk of confirming negative stereotypes about an individual’s racial, ethnic, gender, or cultural group” (STEREOTYPE THREAT, Retrieved September 12, 2019, from Nowadays, people are putting great effort on reducing and eliminating the impact of stereotype threats on student’s academic performance. Many researchers have studied such issues. For instance, in a research conducted by Tomasetto and Alparone (2011) it was concluded that unveiling gender identity before math exam had negative impact on girl’s performance. Furthermore, they stated that parents and teachers’ gender-related attitudes can also have impact on their test performance (Tomasetto, C., Alparone, F. R., & Cadinu, M., 2011. Girls’ math performance under stereotype threat: The moderating role of mothers’ gender stereotypes. Developmental psychology, 47(4), 943). Same issue has been studied by Casad, Hale, and Wachs (2017). They concluded that gender stereotype negatively affected math performance among females and the continuous impact of such issues will lead to discouragement among females in pursuing quantitative field of studies (Casad, B. J., Hale, P., & Wachs, F. L., 2017. Stereotype threat among girls: Differences by gender identity and math education context. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 41(4), 513-529). Other researchers have indicated that stereotype threats can lead to Other-as-source stereotype threats which is “a concern regarding potentially being seen through the lens of a negative stereotype by others and it emerges when one believes others might hold the stereotypes” (Shapiro, J. R., & Williams, A. M. (2012). The role of stereotype threats in undermining girls’ and women’s performance and interest in STEM fields. Sex Roles, 66(3-4), 175-183).

I have faced stereotype threats related to my nationality or generally being an international student from middle east or from Iran. The very first years of my studies in higher education, my speaking was always questioned as to how I speak English without complication even though I came from middle east. Some people kept repeating that I will not understand the upcoming conversation since I was not a native speaker. These issues had additional pressure on me since I had to prove to everyone that a student from middle east is a normal person and can learn other languages and speak those languages. On the other hand, I had skipped some conversations and spoke less just to be cautious of not using any wrong word to be forced to accept that as an international student, I cannot understand what others are talking about.

In the next level, my writing was questioned. I practiced a lot to get a high score on the English test before moving to another country, however, it was believed that my writing must have many grammar and vocabulary issues since I was an international student. Although I put my best effort on my assignments, the instructor would have always state that “since you are an international student, I can understand that you will have writing issues”. The very first month, I had so much courage for following my dreams and continuing my education and thus was not greatly affected by these comments, however, receiving less support and credits due to my nationality discouraged me to continue working hard on my assignments.

I have encounter stereotype threats related to my major as well. When I chose to change my major from architecture to building construction, I received many negative feedbacks indicating that architecture is a better major for females and that I will not be able to perform well in construction compared to my male peers. This put additional pressure on me, feeling that I will always be judged in this field of study. Although it has increased my anxiety, which at some points impacts my performance, I still put great effort to prove that there are no performance differences among various genders in a specific field of study. l believe that the stereotype issues require extreme consideration due to the long-term impact that they have on personal and professional lives of people.


About mensafi

Mahnaz is a Ph.D. student in Environmental Design and Planning at Virginia Tech. She holds two master’s degree, M.S. in Environmental Design from Texas Tech University and M.A in Architecture from University of Tehran (Iran). Currently, she is both research and teaching assistant at Virginia Tech. Her research interests include BIM, facility management, construction safety and healthcare design.
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