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Matt McGlone, associate professor of psychology at Lafayette, has received a $49,900 Research Opportunity Award from the National Science Foundation to create a computer tool to unveil instances in which stereotypes affect children.

The grant will further McGlone’s research on “stereotype threat,” the negative effect of stereotypes on the performance and behavior of those targeted by them. African American students, for example, when asked to identify their race prior to taking a standardized test, can be affected by knowledge of negative stereotypes, experiencing a decrease in cognitive functioning and emotional regulation.

“One of the difficulties in investigating, preventing, or reducing stereotyping is that it develops so early in children’s thinking,” notes McGlone. “The early onset and tenacity of stereotypes raise concerns about their impact on children’s academic achievement.”

While on leave during the 2002-2003 school year to pursue this project, McGlone will create and test a computer program that measures when stereotypes in elementary and middle school children affect their thinking. An interactive game format — based on the classic children’s game known as “concentration” or “memory” — will be incorporated to appeal to that age group. His work will be used in a series of school-based experiments led by Joshua Aronson, assistant professor of applied psychology at New York University.

Research on stereotype threat has been limited by a lack of tools measuring when stereotypes affect young children’s behavior, notes McGlone. Typically, they involve advanced reading and reasoning skills suited to adults. His program will be designed to detect subtle changes in the extent to which children’s knowledge of a stereotype enters a given situation, including instances that occur outside a child’s awareness.

Last year, McGlone collaborated with Buffie Longmire ’02, a psychology major from Watertown, Mass., in research on stereotype threat through Lafayette’s EXCEL Scholars program, in which students assist faculty with research while earning a stipend. Longmire’s work included 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 test scores reflected those assumptions,” says McGlone. In addition, they worked on designing a study on political knowledge and the influence of stereotype threat.

McGlone also supervised a senior honors thesis by Angela Neal ’01 that investigated whether women are threatened by stereotypes in political knowledge surveys.

McGlone is not the only Lafayette professor to work with a student on the issue of stereotype threat. Last year, McGillicuddy-DeLisi served as adviser to Jennifer Fleming ’01 for her honors thesis on the effects of stereotype threat on boys’ and girls’ standardized math test performance.

McGlone’s collaboration with Aronson on stereotype threat research has resulted in presentations at the Symposium on Stereotype Threat at the Annual Meeting of the European Association of Experimental Social Psychology, Oxford University, in 1999, and the 76th Annual Convention of the Western Psychological Association, San Jose, Calif., in 1996. McGlone’s work on stereotype threat also was presented at the annual meeting of the Association of Women in Psychology, Salt Lake City, Utah, in 2000.

Aronson will discuss his recent work on strategies to minimize the impact of stereotype threat 7:15 p.m. Thursday, April 25, in Jaqua Auditorium, Hugel Science Center.

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 University. McGlone is a member of the editorial board of Psychological Science, the journal of the American Psychological Society. In 1998, he received Lafayette’s Thomas and Lura Forrest Jones Faculty Lecture Award for excellence in teaching and scholarship. His areas of special interest and expertise are categorization processes, semantic memory, and social cognition. The NSF research represents the convergence of these areas with his newfound interest in social development.

Categorized in: Academic News