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Senior Project Final Paper

  1. 1. Stereotypes provide a frame in which a group can be judged. Though stereotypes are derived by some fact, we make many mistakes judging individuals through one frame. African Americans have been subject to many social stereotypes, and there has been research that suggests stereotypes affect identity and esteem, eventually altering one’s social identity (Steele, 1997). Research has revealed evidence that perceived ethnic injustices might lead ethnic minorities to question the personal value of domains dominated by the Caucasian majority. (Schmader, Major, Gramzow, 2001). However, given the gap between Caucasian students and African American students in academic achievement, the threat of stereotypes may play a larger role on African American success. Does the extent of racial identification and self esteem have effect on vulnerability to be threatened? This paper intends to highlight how racial identity and self esteem influence the vulnerability to stereotype threat of African American university students. Results will be analyzed against under the lens of social identity. <br />The Achievement Gap<br />The achievement gap describes the breach between academic success of Caucasian students, and Minority students. In America minorities began to close the achievement gap with their fellow Caucasian classmates during the 1970’s and 80’s (Wills,2007). Though the NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) recognizes that both African American and Hispanic students have made great strides to narrow that breach, they also acknowledge that progress has come to a halt since the mid 80’s. In 2003, 39 percent of Caucasian students scored at a proficient level or higher on the 4th grade NAEP reading exam, while only 12 percent of African American students did the same. The 4th grade NAEP mathematics exam resulted in 42 percent of Caucasian students scoring at a proficient level or higher, while only 10 percent of African Americans did so. The NAEP administers assessment tests based on grade for all education subjects. (U.S. Department of Education, 2003) Research suggests, achievement gaps occur in racially diverse settings, as both African Americans and Latinos experience reading and math gaps in early grades.(Mckown, Weinstein, 2003)However of all races, African Americans seem to be the most at risk in the academic setting. Research suggests that academic performance may be directly related to the stereotype threat perceived by these minority groups (Schmader, Major, Gramzow, 2001). <br />Social Identity Theory<br />When individuals associate themselves with certain groups, there is a tendency to compare their group to others. Individuals often favorably rate the values that are associated with their group, while dismissing the values of others. Individuals will also often match their values to those of the group which they associate in efforts to create a positive social identity that bolsters self esteem. Social Identity theory consists of three components, categorization, identification, and comparison. Positively identifying with the in-group, while negatively dismissing characteristics of the out-group helps individuals gain self-esteem. (Steele, 1997) Rosenberg’s self-esteem scale (1965) has been used for measurements however, it is now thought that another motive, self-regulation, is also a driving entity. This pertains to the fact that when an in-group identity is heightened, an individual will match his or her behaviors in order to confirm membership with that group. In other words, when performance differences become salient, African American students may devalue the academic performance characteristics held by members of other racial groups in order to enhance social identity (Eccleston, 2001).<br />If an individual’s social identity can lead to individual discounting and disvaluing of domains, there must be factors of social identity that influence one’s social identity in a given context. Social Identity has been studied frequently with the Cross Model which has evolved since 1971, to include individual’s self-concept as being influenced independently by both personal and ethnic identity (Jensen, Negy Shreve, Uddin, 2003).As stated above, when an individual’s group faces discrimination or rejection, a common strategy is to strengthen group identity in order to preserve self-esteem, through measures of ethnic pride (Phinney, 1992). This finding is consistent with studies that show African Americans holding a higher sense of self esteem than their racial counterparts, though many African Americans feel they are the target of discrimination and rejection. Is the ability to devalue domains such as academics, driven by the maintenance of self esteem of African American students? <br />Racial Identity and Social Identity Theory<br />Race has many implications on social identity theory as racial identity is formed partly through the rank or status of the racial group in comparison to others. The extent to which an individual indentifies with his race becomes a psychological construct that determines the degree that they dismiss characteristics of others’ or out-groups. (Bonam, Peck, Sanchez, Shih, 2007) A study done in a corporate setting suggests that African American professionals search for cues to determine the degree of identity-threat or safe would be expected. Minority representation and diversity philosophy, within a business, communicate messages that contain the level of group identity that is to be “worn on the outside” (Crosby, Davies, Ditlmann, Steele, Vaughns, 2008). When an individual’s group faces discrimination, a common strategy is to strengthen group identity, through interactions that involve ethnic pride. The study also concludes that racial identification in all racial groups was positively related to self-esteem, except for Asian Americans. European Americans placed great deal of importance on American ideals and values rather than African Americans who held less significant American ideals (Phinney,1992). African American adolescents have a high sense of racial identity which may be a reaction to conditions of prejudice and discrimination as suggested by SIT. (Steele, 1997) The Racial Identity Ethnic (REI) is a scale that has been recently used to measure individuals connectedness, awareness of racism, and embedded achievement of their racial or ethnic background. Oyserman (2006) suggest that high REI is associated with better academic achievement. Racial identity is an important part of one’s social identity; more specifically the extent to which an individual identifies with that race or ethnicity, and the social connotations that go along with it. African Americans have been credited the only racial group that does not hold a strong American Identity but they do identify the most with their ethnicity, Phinney reports, African Americans must balance their ethnicity with “acting white” when mainstream society encourages so. In this case the pressures associated with the need to choose between “acting white”, and a strong ethnic identity cause African Americans to struggle (Phinney, 1992). Charles Negy suggests that self-esteem is positively correlated with ethnic identity for Caucasian and Hispanic students, however not for African Americans (Negy, 2003). In the context of American schools, researchers have found that positive ethnic identities positively correlate with school engagement and academic achievement. (Bennet, 2006) African American students who are labeled as having a low connection with African Americans, felt that African Americans were devalued by society, and felt negatively about African Americans indicated less interest in school, while African American students who were labeled as idealized, felt positive group affiliation, positive value in society, and felt positive about African Americans, indicated more personal value in school. (Chavous 2003) <br />Racial Identification has been studied separate from group beliefs and perceptions as many African Americans vary greatly in their definitions of self with regard to their group. (Major, Schmader, 1998). Tajfel and Turner, creators of Social Identity theory speak of social creativity, which involves in-group members assigning new values on attributes associated with out-groups in respect to their group. Schmader (2001) has proposed that the stigmatized selectively devalue or disregard those dimensions or attributes in which they fare poorly in, therefore selectively valuing those attributes that they do well in. Individuals who do not have any knowledge of their own personal standing in a given domain may devalue it based on previous conception of ability from in-group performance. Schmader and Major (1998) found that when the in-group performs poorly relative to the out-group, an individual will place less personal importance on that given attribute. Studies also support that there is stronger tendency to devalue an attribute that an in-group member performs poorly on, then to value an attribute an in-group member performs well on. (Gramzow, Major, Schmader, 2001) Steele (1997) identified what he called “dis-identification”, which is the term given to students who no longer identify a particular domain that they once had interest in due to performance. With the connotations associated with the African American race aside, it is interesting to find the strength of racial identification and how it influences academic performance without the pressures of stereotypes.<br />Stereotype Threat<br />Steel (1997)defines stereotype threat as “the event of a negative stereotype about a group to which one belongs becoming self-relevant, usually as a plausible interpretation for what one is doing, a situation one is in, or an experience that one is having.” To be stated simply, stereotype threat is the idea that people tend to underperform when confronted with situations that might confirm negative stereotypes about their social group.(1997) It has been studied amongst elementary school girls taking a math test, elderly people given a memory test, and white men being assessed on athletic ability(Viadero,2007). In assessing the affects of stereotype threat on a particular social group, it is necessary for indirectly activated stereotypes to affect performance (Steele, 1997). Mcknown and Weinstein (2003) concluded that once stigmatized groups become aware of stereotypes, awareness of others’ stereotypes activates threat which can significantly hamper performance. Research suggest that participants with a mental illness performed worse on a standardized test after being asked about their illness(Crocker, Kahng, Quinn, 2004).In pertaining to African American students, students who were told that a test they were given was diagnostic performed worse, then students who were told the test was non-diagnostic of ability. However, Steele and Aronson have refuted the misinterpretation of their work by other scholars, by saying that the elimination of stereotype threat will not eliminate the achievement gap (Aronson, Steele, 1995).<br />Racial Identity and Stereotype Threat<br /> According to Stereotype Threat, minority students should experience greater stress and anxiety, and these would in turn undermine academic performance (Anisman, Cole, Matheson, 2007). Long exposure of negative stereotypes about one’s group, cause individuals to internalize the stereotypes, which result in a sense of inadequacy becoming part of their identity.(Steele, 1997).However research suggests that multiracial and bicultural students create a buffer for many racial stereotypes by viewing ethnicity or race as a social construct.(Bonam, 2007) When examining racial identity, it is important to consider racial identification (centrality), and racial regard (perceptions); it has been found that both levels are present and vary among African Americans(Rowley , 1998). African American psychologist James M. Jones wrote “To experience stereotype threat, one needs not believe the stereotype nor even be worried that it is true of oneself”, the simple fact that the stereotype is known, becomes an influence and potential threat (Steele, 1997). People who are “racialized” will assert defensive communal identities in response to societal representations that construct them as the negative other. (Gosine, 2002) Ogbu reports that among other caste-like minorities such as the Oriental Jews of Israel, the West Indians of Great Britain, and the Baraku of Japan, their exist a similar gap in IQ as between African Americans and Caucasians here in America. It is interesting to note that some of these groups experience the gaps even within race.(Steele, 1997) Perceived ethnic injustices are a predictor of academic devaluing and discounting among negatively stereotyped ethnic minorities (Schmader, Major, Gramzow, 2001). If many African Americans perceive ethnic injustices, how does the racial identity of African American students affect their vulnerability to stereotype threat in an academic performance test?<br />Self Esteem and Stereotype Threat<br />African American students tend to have greater self-esteem, than Caucasian students, or any other ethnicity (Negy, 2003). We might predict that individuals of a socially stereotyped or stigmatized group, who do not perform well in a given domain, may come to view that domain as less important than those who perform well. In a university or high school setting where Caucasian students seem to succeed, African Americans may unconsciously place less importance in academic achievement.“Relative in-group failures motivate personal devaluing as a strategy of protecting collective self esteem (Schmader, Major, 1999). Rosemary Phelps (2001) concluded that cultural mistrust, ethnic identity, and racial identity accounted for 37 percent of the variance in self esteem among African American students. However some researchers suggest that self-esteem is not the variable of importance in addressing stereotype threat and academics, Van Laar (2000) insists it is external attributions that hinder African Americans, such as beliefs about the world around them, and their place in it. Students display doubts that their efforts will benefit them in the future. Crocker and Major (1999) suggest that “stigma” itself contains esteem protective strategies, allowing the stigmatized to blame their failures on the prejudice, and evaluate themselves relative to their in-group members African American students are detaching their self-esteem from performance in certain domains.(Steele, 1997). Steele has split the notion of self-esteem creating a “home-life” self esteem and self-esteem among peers. He concludes that African Americans dis-identify with domains in which their evaluative prospectives were poor, the home life, and identify with domains in which their prospects were better, their peers (Schmader 2001). Stereotypes play a significant role in “the detaching” of domains for stigmatized groups. A question of specific interest is, how will the awareness of information about African Americans and mathematics affect academic performance tests given to African American students, as opposed to those African American students who have not been made aware? The variance of self esteem in students will be analyzed against performance for significant correlations.<br />Methods<br />Participants<br />Participants include 62 university students from universities located all throughout the eastern coast. Snowball sampling occurred as students were selected based on ethnicity as questionnaires were passed along. Approximately 1/3 of students surveyed were females. <br />Procedures<br />Data was received from questionnaires that were passed along campuses and completed through email. Students were not told more than to complete the survey that was on hand. The questionnaires were manipulated as 31 questionnaires contained a brief paragraph discussing information regarding the lack of mathematics and reading skills in African American students as compared to Caucasian students. Each student was only exposed to one condition. The questionnaire consists of scales that capture measurements of Academic performance, self esteem, and racial identification. <br />Instruments<br />Self Esteem<br />Rosenberg’s Self Esteem scale (1965) is a close ended measure that consists of a four point likert scale that ranges from strongly agree to strongly disagree. Examples of statements include “I feel that I have a number of good qualities”, and “I wish I could have more respect for myself”. Scoring for the statements rank as following: SA=3, A=2, D=1, SD=0. The score ranges from 0-30, scores between 15-25 display average self-esteem while scores below 15 demonstrate a low self-esteem.<br />Racial Identity<br />Daphna Oyserman’s Racial-Ethnic Identity measurement (2006) is a close ended measure that consists of a tripartite as connectedness, awareness of racism, and embedded achievement are all subscales embedded into the statements. Statements are ranked on a five point likert scale that ranges from SD=1- SA=5, items are tallied for the sum. Examples include If I am successful it will help the African American Community, and I have a lot of pride in what members of the African American community have achieved. <br />Academic Performance<br />The academic performance scale will be a composition of eight 12th grade math questions that are from the National Assessment of Education Progress (2003). The questions change difficulty as they consist of three easy and three medium questions, as well as two hard questions. Questions include: In triangle ABC shown above, what is the measure of, the cost to mail a first-class letter is 33 cents for the first ounce. Each additional ounce costs 22 cents. (Fractions of an ounce are rounded up to the next whole ounce.), How much does it cost to mail a letter that weighs 2.7 ounces?<br />Results<br />Research question one seeks a relationship between academic performance and racial identity of African American university students. A correlation coefficient test was used in to examine this relationship. The relationship was not significant such that higher racial identity was related to higher academic performance, r (60) = .249, p >. 05. The results revealed that there is not a relation between racial identity and academic performance in university students. <br />Research question two seeks a relationship between self esteem and academic performance of African American university students. A correlation coefficient was used in order to conduct this test. The relationship was not significant in such that higher self esteem correlated to higher academic performance, r (60) = .114, p >.05. The results revealed that there is not a relation between self esteem and academic performance in university students. <br />A correlation coefficient was used to determine if self esteem and racial identity of African American students displayed a relationship, research question three. The relationship was not significant such that higher self esteem was related to higher racial identity, r (60) =.171, p >.05. Results reveal no significant relationship between racial identity and self esteem in university students. <br />The relationship between self esteem of African American students who received the stereotype manipulation as compared to those African American students who did not, is examined in research question four. In order to determine the results a T test was conducted. The relationship was not significant in such that students who received the manipulation had no difference in self esteem scores than those who did not receive the manipulation, t (59) = -1.15, p >.05. The stereotype manipulation revealed no relationship with students’ self esteem scores. <br />Research question five seeks to find a relationship between the racial identity of students who received the manipulation on the questionnaires and students who did not receive manipulation. A T test was conducted in order to determine the results. The results find that the relationship is significant in such that manipulation resulted in lower racial identity scores, t (59) = -3.55, p <.05. The stereotype manipulation resulted in students lower racial identity scores as compared to students who did not receive any manipulation. <br />In order to determine the relationship between stereotype manipulation and academic performance, research question six, a t test was conducted. The results display a significant relationship as academic performance was lower under the stereotype manipulation, t (59) = -2.3 p< .05. The results reveal that under the stereotype manipulation, students’ academic performance was significantly lower. <br />Discussion<br />Social Identity Theory<br />In the research conducted, Social Identity Theory is not fully supported by the results. If racial identity and self esteem are thought to be two crucial aspects of what shapes an individual’s social identity, then the two should have correlated in some manner. The findings suggest that African Americans do not associate their self esteem with their racial identification. In fact, self –esteem is did not significantly correlate in any test run in the research. Though past findings have concluded that one’s race identity is conceptualized as a protective factor for a personal self esteem in African Americans, self esteem is high in these students regardless of racial identification. <br />The Multidimensional Model of Racial Identity (MMRI) provides insight to the concept of racial identity. Different from Oyserman’s tripartite scale this looks at racial identity in four different aspects. Racial salience, racial regard (private/public), and racial centrality, are the four aspects of racial identity that can be prevalent in any given situation. Racial salience refers to the extent to which a person’s race is a relevant part of her or his self-concept at a particular moment. Racial regard refers to an individual’s evaluative judgment of their race. It consists of both a private and public component, in which private refers to the positive or negative feelings one has about his/her group and their membership with that group, and public refers to one’s sense of positive or negative feelings that society has on his/her group. This refers back to collective self esteem, which is another perspective that divides esteem into subcategories and assumes individuals identify with a group. (Rowley, et. al, 1998) Racial centrality refers to the extent to which a person most often defines themselves with respect to race. The MMRI provides racial identity an option, which Oyserman’s tripartite doesn’t necessarily offer. It is possible that racial regard and centrality may very well correlate with self esteem. Also self esteem in African Americans has been concluded to be detached from other personal variables such as embedded achievement. It could be possible that African Americans totally separate their racial identity from the personal or self concept of self esteem. <br /> Social Identity theory would entail that when perceived in-group justices or negative threats to an individual’s group occur, an individual will strengthen his or her group membership in order to bolster self esteem. However the findings suggest that African American students experience lower racial identification when under stereotype threat than the students who were not under threat. The results are inconsistent with Social Identity theory, for under threat, African American racial identities weakened not strengthened. Few studies have indicated any negative correlation between stereotype threat and racial identity. To be exact, this entails that when under threat, African Americans lose strength or confidence in their racial identity. Racial Identity however, in Osyerman’s tripartite scale measures identity in three different ways, one of them being awareness of racism. There is a possibility that the lower scores concluded came from those who felt as if the manipulation paragraph was not a nationwide assumption, or was false. Ultimately, scores were summed; therefore it is possible that their scores may not necessarily be an indication of their “racial identification”. This is where using work from the MMRI may have been useful. <br />Academic Performance<br />The findings suggest that self esteem does not correlate with academic performance in African Americans. These are consistent with past findings that seem to indicate that among other races, African Americans are the only one that does not relate self esteem to their academic performance, as stated above. This becomes interesting because Steele (1997) notes that it is assumed that identifying with school, is forming a relationship between oneself and the domains of school, which allows the domain to become part of one’s self regard. In other words, if an individual identifies with school, than school should be part of one’s self esteem. However Steele also notes that a form of dis-identification occurs between African American students and the academic domains. This same phenomenon can be witnessed when African American students under stereotype threat experience lower academic performance scores. Students in an effort to preserve self esteem may detach self esteem from academics, which results in the overall devaluing of academics and performance. This concept of devaluing domains as an effort to preserve self esteem is worth further research because a domain which has been dominated by the white counterpart in its entire history, is eventually going to lose importance to the African American community, especially if it is known or thought that the domain does not matter or will not benefit them. <br />This can also explain why students’ racial identification, had no correlation with academic performance. The results are consistent with past studies for African Americans are again thought to be the only race that separates racial identity from their academic achievement. Self esteem and racial identity seem to be constructed as separate entities that alone cannot be predictors of academic success in African American students. <br />From the research emerge results that are consistent with previous findings in that under stereotype threat, African American students scored significantly lower in academic performance. Past research has displayed that not only will students perform poorly under specific racial threat, but just making race salient can affect the way a student performs. In this study students were given a paragraph that lists the qualities of the average African American student, which seemed to pinpoint and highlight not only race but attributes about the race. However, the same poor performance effect can result from just asking students to circle their racial background before cognitive performances begin. This information is extremely helpful for the use of those teaching in the future and future research conducted. <br />Contributions <br />The research in this article has shed light on Social Identity theory for it assumes heavily that racial identity is an important part of Social Identity. Future research should concentrate on certain aspects of racial identity when studying academic performance in African Americans. Racial Identity is a broad concept that must be compartmentalized. <br />The research has also shed light however, on stereotype threat and racial identity. For one, further research should concentrate on the relationship between racial identity and stereotype threat. The results suggest that racial identity can be hindered under stereotype threat, which may indicate that individuals belonging to stigmatized groups will lose part of their identity when under threat. Because there is not much past research that depicts racial identity being lower when under threat, this must be examined for it has tremendous implications. The majority of findings have been consistent with past studies; therefore this is one of the most significant findings in the research. <br />The stereotype manipulation provides a new twist in studying stereotype threat, for in most past cases, it is assumed that the participants realize the stereotypes, and are therefore threatened. In an effort to make participants aware, this study strayed from exact stereotypes but stated simple facts about education in America. The manipulation may have been the cause for lower racial identification scores as well. <br />Limitations<br />The biggest limitation of the study was the time period allotted to construct this research. Though the study was relatively small, time could have accounted for better sampling and testing, and much more research. Ideally, the study would have wanted to test students in the classroom setting, where the average student most often academically performs, however due to location of study and time given, surveys were distributed online. It is not possible to determine what state of mind students are in when answering these surveys, however, students who may have discounted the academic performance part of the survey may have been playing in to the purpose of the study. <br />The sampling took on the snowball form as participants were recruited by acquaintance and past participants. The sample of participants would’ve been preferred random; however the location of participants was broadly spread, to try and incorporate various ideas and perspectives. <br />A particular limitation is the sample of questions given to students to measure academic performance. The questions were taken from the National Assessment for Education Progress’s question database which only had eighth and twelfth grade math questions available. 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