Review of Social Psychology Book by Claude Steele

Powerful Essays
Claude Steele, in his book “Whistling Vivaldi,” sheds new light on how pervasive

stereotypes can influence individual’s behavior and academic performance, and how they

perpetuate in different social groups. Stereotype threat, as defined by Steele, is “being at risk of

confirming, as self-characteristic, a negative stereotype about a social group one identifies with.”

(Steele, 1997) It is a general phenomenon – standard predicament of life – that springs from

intersubjectivity. (p.5) We tend to spontaneously categorize and label people according to their

social groups. Whenever someone is placed in a situation where a certain stereotype can be

applied to themselves, they can be judged and treated accordingly. When individuals are aware

of this, they may become conscious of their identity and do not perform as well as they could.

Research has clearly shown the consequences of stereotype threat on academic

performance. Steele and other researchers presented studies testing the theory of stereotype

threat by confirming its negative effect on African American students’ performance on verbal

reasonings test. When told prior to the test that it measures intelligence, the students

underperformed. When race was not emphasized, there was no discernible difference in

performance compared to the white students. (p.50) The underperformance was caused by

stigmatization; the students were pressured to disconfirm the negative stereotype because they

felt that their abilities are under suspicion, (p.31) distracting them from focusing entirely on

solving the given questions.

One of the largest breakthroughs of his research was providing a better understanding of

who is vulnerable to such threats. Experiences of T...

... middle of paper ...

... Steele has clearly shown that performance in academic circumstances can be

impaired by sentience of one’s identity viewed through the social lens of stereotypes.

Ju Hee Lee (20426432) PSYCH 253 Book Review March 24


, 2014


Esch, C. v. (2012). Weatherhead School of Management. Stereotype Threat: Implications for the

Organizational Sciences. Retrieved March 21, 2014, from

Steele, C. M. (2010). Whistling Vivaldi: and other clues to how stereotypes affect us. New York:

W.W. Norton & Company.

Steele, C. M. (1997). A Threat In The Air: How Stereotypes Shape Intellectual Identity And

Performance.. American Psychologist, 52(6), 613-629.

Walton, G. M., & Cohen, G. L. (2003). Stereotype Lift. Journal of Experimental Social

Psychology, 39(5), 456-467.
Get Access