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Buffie Longmire ’02 of Watertown, Mass., a graduate of Cushing Academy, studied the psychological concept known as “stereotype threat” with Matthew S. McGlone, associate professor of psychology.

In particular, she focused on the impact of perceived stereotypes on academic performance of different genders and ethnic groups. The psychology major was a participant in Lafayette’s distinctive EXCEL Scholars program, in which students collaborate closely on research projects with faculty while earning a stipend.

“Stereotype threat is the concept that, even though you may not believe in the stereotype, the fact that you are aware of it can impact your performance,” she says.

McGlone explains, “This is a hot topic in social psychology, particularly regarding academic performance on standardized tests. For years we have seen discrepancies in test scores among different groups. Our research hopes to show that these differences are not related to biology or genetics but instead to the suggestion of negative stereotyping.”

A cognitive psychologist who joined the Lafayette faculty in 1993, McGlone holds master’s and doctoral degrees from Princeton and a bachelor’s degree from Louisiana State. He areas of special interest and expertise include the relationship between language and thought. In 1998 he received Lafayette’s Thomas and Lura Forrest Jones Faculty Lecture Award for excellence in teaching and scholarship.

“I am very interested in stereotype threat. I think that it is a very important issue, especially as the work force and academia become increasingly more diverse,” says Longmire, who plans to pursue an advanced degree in psychology.

She and McGlone devised a series of studies in which students took tests and were subtly reminded of their gender and ethnicity.

“We made students aware of their status and associated stereotypes, such as, ‘women don’t score well on math tests’ or ‘private school students have strong academic skills,’ and the tests scores reflected those assumptions,” says McGlone. They also worked on designing a study on political knowledge and the influence of stereotype threat.

“We analyzed data collected from a previous study having to do with the possibility that the stereotyped group are not the only ones affected by certain stereotypes,” Longmire says.

“I think Lafayette provides a wonderful environment for learning beyond the classroom,” she continues. “This research gave me an opportunity to learn how to conduct psychological research and topics that are found under social psychology.

“Most undergraduates do not get the opportunity to be this involved in the research process,” she says. “I am learning a lot and hopefully will be even better prepared for graduate school.”

Categorized in: Academic News