The emotional costs of computers: an expectancy-value theory analysis of predominantly low-socioeconomic status minority students’ STEM attitudes

Christopher Ball, Kuo Ting Huang, R. V. Rikard, Shelia R. Cotten

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

There is a strong push to increase American students’ interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematic (STEM) careers. However, minority and female students remain underrepresented in the STEM fields. Therefore, it is essential that we continue to examine the potential factors that both incite and dissuade STEM interest. We apply Expectancy-Value Theory (EVT) to examine STEM attitudes of predominantly low-socioeconomic status minority elementary school students over the course of a computing intervention. Furthermore, we integrate the digital inequality mental access conceptualization of ‘emotional costs’ into the EVT model in order to predict students’ negative STEM attitudes. Data are from a large-scale computing intervention that took place in a primarily minority, high poverty, urban elementary school district located in the southeastern USA. Results indicate that positive expectancies for success and subjective task values predict students’ positive STEM attitudes. Emotional costs toward technology primarily predict negative STEM attitudes. Students’ expectancies/values and emotional costs may have a ‘push-and-pull’ effect on the formation of STEM attitudes. This study successfully links digital disparities to STEM disparities by integrating the digital inequality concept of emotional costs. Practically, we conclude that future computing interventions should increase students’ academic-related expectancies and values while also minimizing their emotional costs in order to address both digital and STEM inequalities. Theoretically, we conclude that broad conceptualizations of emotional costs should be included in future studies to help explain negative attitudes/motivations toward STEM-related topics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)105-128
Number of pages24
JournalInformation Communication and Society
Volume22
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2 2019
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • digital inequality
  • emotional costs
  • expectancy-value theory
  • STEM disparity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Library and Information Sciences

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