Positive Outcomes from the Activation of Positive Stereotypes
Stereotype boost theory (SBT) runs in parallel to stereotype threat theory (STT). Although the primary concern of STT is the pernicious effects of negative stereotypes on performance, SBT examines how positive stereotypes can improve performance. In this chapter, we review the research on stereotype boosts conducted to date. Specifically, we review the evidence for stereotype boost, and clarify the distinctions between stereotype boost and stereotype lift. Stereotype performance boosts result from exposure to positive stereotypes, whereas stereotype lift results from exposure to negative stereotypes about another group. We also outline the conditions under which the activation of positive stereotypes can boost performance. We examine the role that the method of stereotype activation and the characteristics of the individual play in determining whether or not activating a positive stereotype will lead to a performance boost. Finally, we investigate the potential mechanisms that could cause positive stereotypes to boost performance. We find evidence for many potential mechanisms that may underlie stereotype performance boosts, including reducing anxiety, increasing efficiency in neural processing, and activating ideomotor processes. It is possible that many of these mechanisms may be working together to boost performance. Finally, in reviewing the research, we find that although some findings from stereotype threat research can be applied or generalized to stereotype boosts, many of the findings from stereotype threat cannot be applied or generalized to stereotype boosts. This suggests that stereotype boost is a separate phenomenon from stereotype threat that may involve different underlying processes.
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