Effect of a stereotype threat intervention on statistics anxiety

Gourdon-Kanhukamwe, Amélie, Juanchich, Marie and Sirota, Miroslav (2016) Effect of a stereotype threat intervention on statistics anxiety. In: Society for the Teaching of Psychology 15th Annual Conference on Teaching (ACT); 21-22 October 2016, Decatur, U.S.. (Unpublished)


Statistics anxiety, negative emotions associated with statistics (Chew & Dillon, 2014), is related to procrastination (Onwuegbuzie, 2004) and poor performance (Hanna & Dempster, 2009). Although research has explored the antecedents and the consequences of statistics anxiety, intervention studies have only been recently developed, targeting for example the components of statistics anxiety (Davis, 2003). However, little intervention research has included control groups, making difficult to conclude that observed reductions are significantly larger than any reduction that could appear with time. Further, addressing the antecedents of the statistics anxiety itself may be more efficient. Such antecedents may include demographics such as gender, with statistics anxiety sometimes found to be higher in women (e.g., Bui & Alfaro, 2011), a group making the majority of psychology students in the United Kingdom (UCAS, 2016). The role of gender could be enlightened by consider ing the stereotype threat, that is the ‘risk of confirming, as self-characteristic, a negative stereotype about one's group’ (Steele & Aronson, 1995, p. 797). Recent studies have investigated interventions to reduce the stereotype threat, such as self-affirmation, an intervention asking participants to think about their own values and skills. Importantly this approach has been found to be efficient both in lab studies and in field experiments: Cohen, Garcia, Apfel, and Master (2006) used a self-affirmation writing intervention in a racially mixed school and showed academic performance to increase despite the intervention taking place only once or twice in the term. For the current research, we used a self-affirmation intervention in two experiments, with psychology undergraduates (N = 90) and with human resources management (HRM) postgraduates (N = 50). Results indicated that in both experiments the intervention did not have an effect on statistics performance, or on state and statistics anxiety. In the HRM group, a trending effect was found on the research methods module performance, however in opposite direction to expected: participants who wrote about their least important values received a higher grade than participants who wrote about their most important values. Implications of these findings for future intervention studies are discussed in terms of group-affirmation (Sherman, Kinias, Major, Kim & Prenovost, 2007).

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