The Effects of Stereotype Threat and Cognitive Load on Math Performance in Women

Hannah Ackerman, The College of Wooster


Women have long been subjected to the stereotype that their performance on math is lower than men's. Cognitive load, in the form of time constraint, also has a detrimental effect on performance in both men and women. The present study suggested that the combined effect of these two phenomena lowered performance on a math test in women, but not in men. Furthermore, the author proposed that implicit priming of the stereotype threat effect through an Implicit Association Test was a sufficient measure of activating stereotype threat in women. 92 college aged men and women were tested with math problems after either being primed with both stereotype threat and cognitive load, no stereotype threat and cognitive load, stereotype threat and no cognitive load, or neither stereotype threat nor cognitive load. The results indicated that men and women scored similarly on the math test, so the expected stereotype effect was not present.