The Stereotype Threat Hypothesis: An Assessment from the Philosopher's Armchair, for the Philosopher's Classroom

Hypatia 30 (2):450-466 (2015)
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According to Stereotype Threat Hypothesis, fear of confirming gendered stereotypes causes women to experience anxiety in circumstances wherein their performance might potentially confirm those stereotypes, such as high-stakes testing scenarios in science, technology, engineering, and math courses. This anxiety causes women to underperform, which in turn causes them to withdraw from math-intensive disciplines. STH is thought by many to account for the underrepresentation of women in STEM fields, and a growing body of evidence substantiates this hypothesis. In considering the plausibility of STH as an explanation for women's disproportionate attrition from undergraduate philosophy programs, one is struck by dissimilarities between STEM and philosophy that appear to undermine the applicability of STH to the latter. In this paper, I argue that these dissimilarities are either merely apparent or merely apparently relevant to the plausibility of STH as an explanation for gender disparities in philosophy. I argue further that, if research from STEM uncovers promising strategies for confronting stereotype threat, we should think about how to apply those strategies in our introductory philosophy classrooms



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Gina Schouten
Harvard University