Stereotype Threat Promotes Aversive Responses to STEM Domains: An Attentional Blink Investigation

Amey, Rachel
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University of Delaware
Beginning around middle school, women initially interested in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) opt out of these fields at disproportionate levels compared to men. It is unclear why many women choose to leave these domains despite a high level of initial interest, but one possibility is that women develop learned aversions towards STEM fields over time. Two studies assessed the effects of STEM aversions on performance and math identification. Study 1 probed for evidence of STEM aversions via an attentional blink task and examined how these aversions may undermine performance on a difficult math test while continuous EEG activity was recorded. Results revealed that both men and women exhibit evidence of STEM aversions, but only women underperform on a difficult math test to the extent they exhibit a neural perceptual bias towards STEM images. Study 2 successfully utilized a dot-probe training paradigm to mitigate these effects. Overall, findings suggest that, stereotype threat to STEM domains can produce a learned aversion in women however using attentional paradigms this effect can be reversed.