Stereotype Threat



Stereotypes can significantly impact the way we live and engage with other social beings. It is important to understand what information stereotypes communicate to us and how this information impact our communication and interaction with each other.

A stereotype is referred to as “a standardized mental picture that is held in common by members of a group and that represents an oversimplified opinion, prejudiced attitude, or uncritical judgment. [1]” It is usually considered as an overgeneralization about a particular group of people based on their personality traits, inherent abilities and other common preferences.

Furthermore, Stereotype Threat refers to being at risk of confirming, as a self-characteristic, a negative stereotype about one’s social group (Steele & Aronson, 1995) [2]. It is believed that certain characteristics become formative self-fulfilling prophecies for those defined as having them [3]. It is important to know that no one is exempt from stereotype threat and because everyone is vulnerable, we all need to be proactive in displacing stereotypes and stereotype threats.

Consider watching this interesting social experiment video, Threat of Stereotypes, on stereotype threats (ST) that demonstrates the impact of ST on our behavior, performance and situational outlook.

Personal Impact

I have always felt uneasy about having conversations around stereotypes. But, I do think it is important to share your experiences to bring awareness and hopefully dismantle practices and behaviors that are seemingly spineless. Stereotypes in my opinion are hollow projections on different groups based on irrational judgments.

Migrating to the U.S and in pursuit of a higher education degree within the STEM field, I was very excited to matriculate into college and into an engineering program. I followed the necessary testing protocol for the placement tests and I successfully made the score requirements. However, because of my high school status, being foreign, I was prevented from enrolling into the college level math calculus series and required to retake the pre-requisite math classes prior to enrollment. The principal stereotype threat here was education obtained outside of the U.S. is perceived as lacking in quality, completeness and rigor. Due to this skewed perception, retaking the pre-requisite classes set me back a good year and also caused me to have doubts in my abilities to succeed in my math coursework and in attaining an engineering degree. Although, I made the mark of acceptance according to the college’s standards, I was disadvantaged because of my academic history.

Another dominant stereotype threat that I have frequently encountered is being questioned around my native language and country of origin. I was born and raised in Trinidad and I have a noticeable accent but many people assume that I speak another language other than English because of my accent. In addition, after speaking with me and hearing my accent, people usually assume that I am from Jamaica and that I know about or have consumed marijuana products. On these occasions, I had to correct many false assumptions, while also feeling a sense of frustration.

Future Implications

Stereotypes and Stereotype threats are indeed prevalent in society. Furthermore, we are all vulnerable to stereotype threats can not turn a blind eye. I think the important thing is that in order to overcome these societal practices, we must strive to be intentional and proactive in disrupting the behaviors when done to ourselves/others or when we too are inclined to project the practices onto others. I have encountered many people from diverse groups to know that superiority is not exclusive to any group. Being stereotypes try to distinguish competence and superiority among diverse groups and classes etc. However, the truth upholds that our individuality and inherent and ascribed qualities make us incomparable and unmatchable to any other.



3 Replies to “Stereotype Threat”

  1. Thank you for sharing your experience. I never really knew that the United States education system looked down on the quality of education outside of the United States. This brought a new light to my eyes because honestly I have always seen international students brighter than myself, so I personally feel sadden by this experience. I truly appreciate that you brought this up because I believe that this should be known more widely.

  2. I can’t imagine dealing with that kind extra bureaucracy in higher education. Major props for sticking with! How do you respond to someone who assumes English is not your native language? I imagine it would be quite frustrating.

  3. Hi Kimberly, thank you for sharing your experiences in your blog! I find it frustrating and disheartening that even though you “made the mark of acceptance” you were set back a year. Thank you for sharing that part of your life. I had not even considered that as a possibility. I appreciate your insight and opening my eyes to the US school system from a different perspective.

    I very much enjoyed the video link you provided. I had mentioned the concept of self-fulfilling prophecy in my blog as well. Personally, I think, in a sense, stereotypes are fueled by the reaction. Now I know that stereotypes are terrible and cause a tremendous amount of harm, but it makes me wonder what would happen if nothing ever came from a stereotypical remark. If there was no reaction for a long period of time would it go into extinction? Or would another stereotype just “pop” up in its place? Thank you for making me think about this concept.

Leave a Reply