Twenty Years of Stereotype Threat Research: A Review of Psychological Mediators.

Charlotte Pennington, Derek Heim, Andy Levy, Derek Larkin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

175 Citations (Scopus)
98 Downloads (Pure)


This systematic literature review appraises critically the mediating variables of stereotype threat. A bibliographic search was conducted across electronic databases between 1995 and 2015. The search identified 45 experiments from 38 articles and 17 unique proposed mediators that were categorized into affective/subjective (n = 6), cognitive (n = 7) and moti-vational mechanisms (n = 4). Empirical support was accrued for mediators such as anxiety, negative thinking, and mind-wandering, which are suggested to co-opt working memory resources under stereotype threat. Other research points to the assertion that stereotype threatened individuals may be motivated to disconfirm negative stereotypes, which can have a paradoxical effect of hampering performance. However, stereotype threat appears to affect diverse social groups in different ways, with no one mediator providing unequivocal empirical support. Underpinned by the multi-threat framework, the discussion postulates that different forms of stereotype threat may be mediated by distinct mechanisms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-25
JournalPLoS One
Issue number1
Early online date11 Jan 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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