Stereotype Threat &The Impact on Academic Performance Karen A. Lewis, M.S. Assistant Vice President for Student Services, Enrollment Management & Registrar Meharry Medical College Association of American Medical Colleges Group on Student Affairs – Southern Region Spring Meeting April 25, 2009 – Dallas, Texas
Statement of the Problem In 2007, • 7.4% of 42,315 applicants to U.S medical schools were Black • 6.4% of the 2007 U.S. medical school entering classes were Black • 7.9% of the total U.S. medical school enrollment was Black • 6.7% of the U.S. medical school graduates were Black
Statement of the Problem, cont’d. • Enrollment numbers in medical school are not proportionate with U.S. population demographics • Blacks comprised 12.2% of the U.S. population, but only 7.2% of the U.S. medical school enrollment • Hispanics comprised 15.1% of the U.S. population, but only 7.8% of the U.S. medical school enrollment
Statement of the Problem, cont’d. • White enrollment numbers more accurately reflect national demographics at 62.6% and 65.8% respectively • Asian Indian numbers actually show a disproportion in the opposite direction at 21.4% enrollment vs. 4.4% of the population.
Statement of the Problem, cont’d. 5-year trends (2003-2007) • Black U.S. medical school enrollment has remained flat at an average of 7.3% • Black U.S. medical school graduates have averaged about 6.7% of the graduating class
Statement of the Problem, cont’d. In 2006, • Blacks accounted for only 2.8% of the close to 4 million physicians practicing in the United States • Blacks accounted for 12.4% of the population Why is this important??
Statement of the Problem, cont’d. The Sullivan Commission, Institute of Medicine, and the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) all released reports confirming findings that increasing the representation of racial and ethnic minorities in the physician workforce as a strategy to address health disparities in minorities.
Statement of the Problem, cont’d. “Evidence demonstrates that physicians from communities of color are more likely to serve underserved, disadvantaged, and racial and ethnic communities. Research also suggests that patients from minority groups prefer the care they received from physicians of the same racial and ethnic backgrounds.” (AAMC, 2007)
Statement of the Problem, cont’d. Call for expansion of medical school class sizes by 30% to offset projected physician workforce shortage in 2020. • Some U.S. medical schools have already increased class sizes • 4 new medical schools are opening in 2009 • An additional 5 new medical schools are projected to open in 2010 How do we ensure that these enrollment increases include a proportionate increase in the number of Blacks in those classes?
Statement of the Problem, cont’d. One major barrier to medical school admissions for Black applicants is the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) “…the heavy use of standardized test scores often serves as a mechanism of exclusion for underrepresented minority students who typically score lower than White or Asian American counterparts on standardized admissions tests, including the DAT and MCAT.” Sullivan Commission, 2004
Statement of the Problem, cont’d. Average MCAT Scores by Race Applicants Admitted B W B W Verbal Reasoning 6.9 9.5 8.3 10.2 Physical Sciences 7.0 9.3 8.4 10.3 Biological Sciences 7.4 9.8 9.1 10.7 Total 21.3 28.6 25.8 31.2
Statement of the Problem, cont’d. Predictive Validity of the MCAT “…performs well as an indicator of academic preparation for medical school, …” (Julian, 2005)
Statement of the Problem, cont’d. Considerations for future analysis • Race and sex were not isolated as possible variables in the final prediction equations • Critical mass of Blacks included in the study
Project Objectives • Explore stereotype threat as an explanation of the disparity in performance by African Americans on the MCAT • Explore the impact of metacognitive skills, specific to negative thinking, on the performance of African Americans • Examine programs devoted to the preparation of African Americans for the health professions
Metacognition “Metacognition monitoring refers to the subjective assessment of one’s own cognitive processes and knowledge, whereas control refers to the processes that regulate cognitive processes and behavior.” (Koriat, Ma’ayan & Nussinson, 2006)
Stereotype Threat Stereotype threat is defined as a condition when a person is “at risk of confirming as self-characteristic, a negative stereotype about one’s group.” (Steele & Aronson, 1995) The resulting anxiety and pressure to perform so as to not confirm the stereotypical performance expectation actually inhibits performance, thereby confirming the stereotype.
Negative Self-Thinking and Metacognition • Possible link between metacognitive skills & the negative effects of stereotype threat Mental habits, especially negative self-thinking are “subject to metacognitive reflection, and they may thus play a role in self-evaluation processes.” (Verplanken, Friborg, and Wang, 2007)
Individual Differences in Susceptibility to Stereotype Threat • Extent of identification with stereotyped group • Identification with multiple social groups – achieved vs. ascribed identities • Importance assigned to the relevant performance domain • Locus of control • Susceptibility to negative thoughts
How Stereotype Threat Works • Distinguishing between threat and non-threat conditions • Manipulating conditions • Limitations in the test vs. the real world environment • Stereotyped populations – it’s not only about race • The original study confirmed that manipulation of the perceived test conditions affected performance
Five Characteristics ofStereotype Threat • General threat not tied to the psychology of a particular stigmatized group • It is activated by a particular occurrence • The type and degree of the threat varies from group to group across settings • To experience it, you do not have to believe the stereotype or think it applies to you • The effort to overcome stereotype threat by disproving the stereotype can be daunting
Identification with theStereotyped Group • Developing Racial Identity • Cross Model • Pre-Encounter • Encounter • Immersion-Emersion • Internalization Davis, Aronson, and Salinas’ 2006 study confirmed that the status of one’s racial identity could moderate performance in low threat situations, but not high threat conditions
Ascribed vs. Achieved Identities Development of achieved identities occurs as students mature. McGlone & Aronson’s 2006 study confirmed that shifting attention from ascribed identities to achieved identities could mitigate the negative effects of stereotype threat. “Social identity thus appears to be not only a vector for stereotype threat phenomena, but also a potential anecdote for their ill effects.” (McGlone & Aronson, 2006)
Importance of the Relevant Domain Marx & Stapel’s 2006 study confirmed that by priming a non-target population with the perspective or expectations of a target population, performance is decreased. Opposite conditions were not explored, ie., priming target populations with non-target population expectations for increased performance. Stereotype priming can affect anyone and make students more susceptible to stereotype threat.
Locus of Control Cadinu, Maass, Lombardo, Frigerio’s 2006 study confirmed that study participants with an internal locus of control experienced a “sharp decrease in performance” in a threatening situation. People with internal locus of control assume responsibility for their performance and believe that they control and regulate their performance.
Characteristics of theSusceptible Student • High achieving students • Internal locus of control • High identification with the stereotyped group • Relevant domain is of high importance Equals the description of most applicants to health professions schools.
How Stereotype Threat Affects Cognitive Performance • Lower expectations • Increased self-doubt • Inefficiency of processing • Reduced speed and accuracy • Distraction • Narrowed attention • Anxiety • Self-consciousness • Withdrawal of effort or over effort • Taxing working memory
Taxing Working Memory The ability for all of the working memory capacity to be devoted to the relevant task is diminished because that task is now competing with negative thought suppression, physiological stress, increased task vigilance, and self-doubt.
Behavior Mechanisms as Mediators or Moderators for Stereotype Threat Jessi Smith’s literature review (2004) examined eight different behavior mechanisms • Effort – not a mediator • Self-handicapping – inconclusive • Anxiety – inconclusive • Evaluation apprehension – not a mediator • Performance confidence – partial mediator • Stereotype endorsement – not a mediator • Perceptions of the test – not a mediator • Feelings about self (identifications with the stereotyped social group) – possible moderator
A Closer Look at Effort While Smith did not find effort to be a mediator for stereotype threat, Keller (2007) did confirm that regulatory focus was an effective moderator for stereotype threat. Regulatory focus theory speaks to two distinct modes of self-regulation – promotion and prevention. Promotion – challenged to succeed, motivated by needs for nurturing Prevention – task perceived as a threat, seeks to prevent failure, motivated by needs for security The difference – pursue success or prevent failure correlates to the amount of effort expended
Physiological Responses • Increased blood pressure • Increased heart rate • Increased cortisol levels • Increased sympathetic nervous system activity • Increased perspiration (Smith, 2004 & Schmader, Johns & Forbes, 2007)
Stereotyped TaskEngagement Process (STEP) No one mechanism emerged as the primary mediator for Stereotype Threat. Therefore, Jessi Smith (2004) developed a multidimensional approach to the study of effects of stereotype threat and explain differences in the response to stereotype threat called the Stereotyped Task Engagement Process.
Stereotyped TaskEngagement Process (STEP) “The stereotyped task engagement process is a model for bridging together the research in stereotype threat and achievement goal theory to better understand the complex experience of stereotyped individuals working on competence-related activities.” (Smith, 2004)
Stereotyped TaskEngagement Process (STEP) It is a multiple mediator proposal which incorporates extractions from the achievement goal theory literature that allows us to account for more individual differences. The basis for the model is that individual characteristics coupled with stereotype threat leads to the adoption of performance-avoidance goals which then leads to negative task behaviors and phenomenological experiences in the test preparation and actual test environment, ultimately yielding a poor or undesirable outcome.
Achievement Goal Theory Two Goal Categories • Mastery Goals – task-oriented and focus on the task for the sake of learning • Performance Goals – ego-oriented and focus on the task for the sake of a reward Two Approaches Associated with Achievement Goals • Approach – taking positive steps toward a desired outcome; characterized by heightened interest, feelings of empowerment or positive challenge, aggressive pursuit of the goal • Avoidance- developed to avoid or prevent an undesirable outcome; characterized by feelings of fear, overwhelmed, inadequacy and withdrawal
Stereotype Threat and Achievement Goal Theory “The STEP process is proposed as a model for linking stereotype type threat and achievement goal research. It is expected that stereotype threat triggers a PAV-goal because PAV-goals are conceptually similar to the state in which individuals feel threatened to prove that a competence-stereotype is not valid.” (Smith, 2004)
Performance Avoidance Goals PAV Goals have been linked to: • Lower levels of performance • Decreased self-efficacy • Increased self-doubt and anxiety • Decreased “quality” of effort • Diminished working memory • Overemphasis on failure • Disorganization (Ryan & Ryan, 2005)
Achievement Goal Theory & Regulatory Focus Theory • PAV and PAP goals directly relate to Keller’s prevention vs. promotion regulatory focus response • PAV Goals are characterized by disorganized study strategy use, minimal risk taking, increased fear, anxiety, evaluation apprehensions, decreased interest and task involvement.
STEP PLUS In 2007, Smith, Sansone & White introduced a new emphasis on the study of interest and motivation as it relates to stereotype threat, achievement goal theory, and applied it to the STEP model. They equated interest to intrinsic motivation and defined it as the “sought, anticipated, or actual experience of interest.” (Smith, Sansone & White, 2007)
STEP PLUS Smith, Sansone, & White confirmed that there was a significant interaction between the stereotype condition and the goal condition. Highly motivated, achievement oriented students actually chose PAV goals more frequently in high threat conditions than lower achievement motivation students. Earlier studies had already suggested that high achievement motivation students were more susceptible to stereotype threat. “An individual higher in achievement motivation is characterized as someone who ‘aspires to accomplish difficult task; maintains high standards and is willing to work toward distant goals; responds positively to competition; willing to put forth effort to attain excellence.” (Smith, Sansone & White, 2007)
An Integrated Process Model (IPM) of Stereotype Threat Effects on Performance Schmader, Johns & Forbes (2008) developed the Integrated Process Model to incorporate the effects of suppression processes and identification of working memory efficiency as the main cognitive resource that is affected by stereotype threat.
An Integrated Process Model (IPM) of Stereotype Threat Effects on Performance Working memory capacity is affected because there are three competing processes in play: • Physiological stress responses such as increased blood pressure, heart rate, cortisol levels, and sympathetic nervous system activity • Increased monitoring of one’s self, the environment/domain and others • Suppression of negative thoughts and emotions
An Integrated Process Model (IPM) of Stereotype Threat Effects on Performance “We assert that this increased monitoring, paired with increased physiological arousal and a primed state of cognitive imbalance created by stereotype threat, can lead people to appraise their experience in a biased manner that produces negative thoughts and feelings.” (Schmader, Johns & Forbes, 2008)
Negative Thoughts & Feelings, Stereotype Threat & Metacognition Distinguishing between • Situational negative thoughts and feelings (content) which we all experience from time to time • Negative self-thinking as a mental habit (process) which is persistent and pervasive • Habitual negative self-thinking has three key elements: 1) negative cognitive content of the thoughts 2) frequent occurrence 3) high degree of automaticity
Negative Thoughts & Feelings, Stereotype Threat & Metacognition In the eight studies they conducted, support was provided for Verplanken, Friborg, Wang, Trafimow & Woolf’s (2007) “assumption that metacognitive beliefs play an important role in cognitive and affective self-related processes. Negative self-thinking habit may thus be a new and interesting concept to consider in the large and complex domain of self-esteem and self-regulation.” Therefore, if a student’s overall metacognitive belief is that they feel threatened in an area, they are likely to choose a prevention regulatory focus or PAV goal. This finding is consistent with studies on other aspects of the effect of stereotype threat (Smith, 2004).
Additional Negative Effects of Stereotype Threat • Disidentification with the stereotyped group • Disengagement from the relevant domain
K-12, Summer &Post-baccalaureate Programs • Pipeline Programs (COE/HCOP) • K-12 (Ben Carson Science Academy at Morehouse School of Medicine – Atlanta, GA) • Post-bac (MEDPREP – Southern Illinois University – Carbondale, IL) • Summer (SMDEP – Duke University, Durham, NC)
Ben Carson Science Academy • Saturday Science Academy • 6-week Summer Science Camp • Started in 1995 • 4th – 8th grades • Exposure to science and technology • Developing reading skills to include comprehension and vocabulary • Exposure to successful African American role models in science and technology • Introduces contributions of ancient Egyptian, African and African American to the health sciences, science and technology • Major objective is to motivate young students for the health professions, stay engaged in learning, and aspire for higher education
MEDPREP • 36-year old program • Must have been unsuccessful in gaining admission to medical or dental school on at least one attempt • Students often come with negative self-images based on difficult undergraduate academic experiences and frustrations with the MCAT or DAT • Over 71% of program participants have subsequently gained admission to health professions school • High emphasis on developing metacognitive skills and self-awareness as learners • Constant self-assessment and self-reflection • All incorrectly answered questions must be assessed for being a knowledge or skill-based error • Individual development plans • “What if?” questions & repetition • Focus is placed on learning study strategies, one’s self as a learner, and how to select the right strategy for your individual circumstance
SMDEP – Duke University • SMDEP sponsored by AAMC through funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation • 12 sites nationwide – Duke University is the only one that cited it specifically addresses stereotype threat • Duke University program had 80 participants in 2008 • Peak Performance Course (stress management, managing relationships, time management, study skills and coping with environmental challenges) • Addresses metacognitive deficiencies • Journaling and self-reflection activities • Use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) to identify each student’s learning sub-type so this can be applied to the study strategies that are taught to program participants and facilitate the selection of the proper strategy • Ownership of the learning experience • In 2008, Joshua Aronson (NYU) and Hy Doyle (UCLA) administered a sampling of MCAT questions to two groups – one in a threat condition, one in a non-threat condition
SMDEP – Duke University • In 2008, Joshua Aronson (NYU) and Hy Doyle (UCLA) administered a sampling of MCAT questions to two groups – one in a threat condition, one in a non-threat condition • Preliminary results confirmed that students in the non-threat condition scored higher on the exam • They then went on to inform the participants about stereotype threat and its possible effects • Future opportunities to review the experiment design and expand it to other SMDEP or post-baccalaureate programs exists