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Stereotype threat: The role of question type in female maths performance

Davies, Lucy Charlotte (2013) Stereotype threat: The role of question type in female maths performance. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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Contemporary educational environments rely heavily on performance-based evaluations. Indeed, maths performance at GCSE has become a matter of national debate.Stereotype threat (ST) is often cited as an explanation for gender differences in maths performance, yet little research has focused on differential ST susceptibility across question types. Furthermore, despite its high relevance to education, the ST phenomenon has received little attention in real examination settings. This research builds on Jamieson and Harkins (2007) mere effort approach to investigate ST in both lab and field studies. Mere effort theory proposes that ST motivates test-takers to disprove an active negative stereotype. When responding to solve type questions based on prepotent (i.e., well learned) knowledge, activation of a negative stereotype can motivate test-takers and improve performance. However, comparison type questions (requiring logic or estimation), often result in performance decreases, because test-takers seek to disprove the negative stereotype leading to a failure in inhibiting prepotent (i.e. solve) information. Findings from Study 1 supported the mere effort perspective; threatened females maths performance was dependent on question type. Study 2 showed that the effects transferred to educational setting during an undergraduate statistics practise exam. In Study 3, female and male secondary school pupils were tested in a GCSE maths practise exam environment. The interactive effects of ST and question type were replicated in females’ maths performance, whereas males’ maths performance was augmented under ST irrespective of question type. The focus moved to mere effort’s ST processes in Studies 4 and 5. A moderating role of inhibitory ability as a ST protective mechanism was found in Study 4. However this was not specific to comparison question performance, and thus suggested that the overproduction of prepotent responses is not the main processes driving ST effects. In Study 5, ST seemingly increased test-takers performance motivation (i.e., the motivation to perform well and undermine the stereotype), influencing their question type preference for solve versus comparison questions. The present research attests to the important role of maths question type in determining ST effects. However, the motivated application of prepotent responses as an explanatory mechanism is questioned and discussed with reference to the alternative working memory (WM) (Schmader & Johns, 2003) ST explanation.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
ISBN: 978-0-85731-596-0
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Medicine and Health (Leeds) > Institute of Psychological Sciences (Leeds)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.605235
Depositing User: Repository Administrator
Date Deposited: 25 Apr 2014 11:32
Last Modified: 06 Oct 2016 14:41
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/5745

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