Are Stereotypes True?

However, numerous interventions have been developed to eliminate the negative effects of stereotypes. One such intervention involves preventing the activation of stereotypesSteele and Aronson (1995) found that when they primed racial stereotypes by having participants indicate their race before taking an intelligence test, African Americans performed worse than when they were not primed . This implies that collecting demographic information at the end of a test rather than at the beginning could reducestereotype threat . Focusing on similarities between groups rather than differences could also prevent the activation of stereotypesRosenthal and Crisp (2006) found that women performed better on a math test when they thought about similarities between men and women rather than differences before taking the test. Avoiding categorical labels in the classroom is another way to reduce the salience of group differences. For instance, using gender functionally in the classroom (e.g., the teacher saying, “Good morning boys and girls”; “Girls line up at the door first and then the boys”; “Boys take a bathroom break first, and then the girls”) leads children to focus on gender differences rather than similarities and increases the use of stereotypes among children (Patterson & Bigler, 2006). Instead, teachers can divide students into groups for daily activities based on malleable characteristics that change every day such as shoe type or clothing color. Furthermore, providing successful role models and pointing out group achievements increases performance among negatively stereotyped groups by breaking down the barriers of stereotypes and deeming them irrelevant (Marx & Roman, 2002; McIntyre, Paulson, & Lord, 2003). It is for this reason that it is especially important to include the achievements of women and minorities in textbooks of math, science, history, etc., so students can be exposed to these successful role models.

While stereotypes seem to be confirmed in the real world, it is important to realize that stereotypes themselves contribute to this confirmation. This realization is an important first step towards preventing the consequences of those stereotypes. With this understanding and with the help of interventions, such as those mentioned above, the vicious cycle of negative stereotypes can be broken.


Marx, D. M., & Roman, J. S. (2002). Female role models: Protecting women’s math test performance. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28(9), 1183-1193.

McIntyre, R. B., Paulson, R. M., & Lord, C. G. (2003). Alleviating women’s mathematics stereotype threat through salience of group achievements. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 39, 83-90.

Patterson, M. M., & Bigler, R. S. (2006). Preschool children's attention to environmental messages about groups: Social categorization and the origins of intergroup bias. Child Development, 77(4), 847-860.

Regenberg, N. (2007). Are blonds really dumb? Inquisitve Mind, 3.

Rosenthal, H. E. S., & Crisp, R. J. (2006). Reducing stereotype threat by blurring intergroup boundaries. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 32(4), 501-511.

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