Enhancing a brief writing intervention to combat stereotype threat among middle-school students

Natasha K. Bowen, Kate M. Wegmann, Kristina C. Webber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Experimental research has demonstrated both the deleterious effects of negative stereotypes about ability on academic performance and the relative ease with which stereotypes can be countered in educational settings. The extent to which stereotypes contribute to the achievement gap between American students from dominant social and economic groups and students from other groups is not precisely known, but the potential of brief, inexpensive interventions targeting stereotype threat to reduce the gap is worthy of further examination. Although researchers studying brief social psychologicalinterventions sometimes mention the importance of the context in which interventions occur, they have not included manipulations of the environment in their interventions. In the current experimental study, a test of the effects of a brief self-affirming writing assignment was conducted in a new sample of middle-school students (n 132), and an environmental enhancement to the writing exercise was tested (n274). Consistent with previous findings, the self-affirming intervention reduced the average decline in Social Studies grades over the school year compared with a neutral condition (effect size, ES,.57). The combination of the affirming writing assignment with an environmental enhancement had superior effects to the writing assignment alone (ES.53).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)427-435
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Educational Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Academic performance
  • Brief intervention
  • Middle school
  • Socialenvironment
  • Stereotype threat

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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