The Impact of Stereotype Threat on Performance in Sports

Jeff Stone, Aina Chalabaev and C. Keith Harrison

in Stereotype Threat

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780199732449
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199918508 | DOI:
The Impact of Stereotype Threat on Performance in Sports

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This chapter examines the role of stereotype threat in creating racial and gender differences in sports performance. During the last decade, scholars, journalists, and athletes relied on bioevolutionary or sociological factors to explain racial and gender differences in athletic competition. The contemporary research in this review shows that negative stereotypes tied to race and gender can also produce differences in the way athletes prepare for and perform in sports. Carefully controlled studies reveal that people hold both positive and negative racial and gender stereotypes about athletes, and that when the negative stereotypes are brought to mind in a sports performance context, they create the burden of stereotype threat that robs athletes of their potential. Both blatant and subtle reminders of a negative stereotype can sabotage athletic performance, and ironically, the athletes most susceptible to the negative impact of stereotype threat are those who are the most psychologically invested in their sport. The available evidence suggests that the threat of confirming a negative stereotype in a sports context causes athletes to focus on avoiding failure, which weakens performance because it interrupts proceduralized sensorimotor responses and impairs working memory capacity. Finally, whereas in the long run it may be possible to reduce the prevalence of stereotyping in the institution of sport, the most effective short-term solution is to inoculate athletes against the debilitating influence of stereotype threat when it is brought to mind in a sports performance context.

Keywords: stereotype threat; athletics; sports; race; gender; self-handicapping

Chapter.  6548 words. 

Subjects: Social Psychology

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