Stereotype Threat


“Stereotype threat refers to being at risk of confirming, as self-characteristic, a negative stereotype about one’s group    (Steele & Aronson, 1995).” [1]

A new study [2] demonstrates what may be the first case of stereotype threat (ST) under natural conditions. Comparing game results from rated school tournaments the researchers found girls (6-12) performed at 83% of their expected level when playing boys. And the under-performing girls – most susceptible to stereotype threat – were also more likely to quit the game.

And earlier study [3] with internet-chess also found under-performance when female players faced-off against male opponents and the performance drop disappeared if they were misinformed and told their opponent was also female.

I mention these studies because 1) I enjoy chess (and variants) and I want everyone to play; 2) gender disparity is an ongoing issue in science/mathematics and 3) depending on the platform (WordPress, Facebook and Twitter), the female to male ratio of likes/follows ranges from 2:1 to 3:1

According to Eric Goebelbecker women dominate the dog-training with men preferring Millan’s aversive “style of training and his ideas. At the very least – based on this blog – they show more interest.

Reducingthreatstereotype website discusses a number of ways in which ST can be reduced, they include: self-affirmation, de-emphasizing group identity, thinking about one’s uniqueness, pretending you are someone else, having role models, identifying anxiety and emphasizing incremental achievement.

Of course all these strategies deal with ST after the fact; ideally you’d want to do something long before this happens:

“Women are emotional, men are psychological” – Cesar Millan

My sense of fair-play is perturbed. As a child, it never occurred to me the girl at the opposite side of the board might be fighting two battles; or that some would quit playing because of it.

They deserved better.

Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play. Every individual makes a difference. – Jane Goodall


  1. What is threat stereotype?
  2. Rothgerber, H., & Wolsiefer, K. (2013). A naturalistic study of stereotype threat in young female chess players Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 17 (1), 79-90 DOI: 10.1177/1368430213490212
  3. Maass A., D’Ettole C. & Cadinu M. (2008). Checkmate? The role of gender stereotypes in the ultimate intellectual sport, European Journal of Social Psychology, 38 (2) 231-245. DOI:  (Free access PDF)


Stereotype Threat

Reducing Threat Stereotype website – what it is, the effects, what can be done.

Yours truly, a girl who stopped playing chess. (text only version) –  the experience of a girl who quit chess.

Gender differences in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and computer science programs at university (Statistics Canada study)



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