The researchers considered various groups of women and whether they were made aware of positive, negative or both positive and negative stereotypes with respect to math performance.
The researchers, as stated in their abstract, “… demonstrated that introducing negative stereotypes about women’s math performance activated participants’ female social identity and hurt their math performance (i.e., stereotype threat) by reducing working memory.”
Thus, when women were presented with only a negative stereotype before doing math problems (such as women do worse at math than men or, even, a situation where they sit between two men while performing math), they did more poorly in their math performance.
The researchers found that thinking about the negative stereotype while performing math problems caused them to use less of their brain for the math problem (and more for thinking about the negative thought)—thus, they did more poorly when doing the math.
Only a positive stereotype
When women were presented with only a positive stereotype before performing a math problem, they performed better at the mathematics problems.
Both negative and positive stereotypes
The researchers, as also stated in their abstract, “… showed that concurrently making positive and negative self-relevant stereotypes available about performance in the same ability domain can eliminate stereotype threat effects.”
That is, when women are aware of both negative and positive stereotypes with regards to math performance before doing math problems, they emphasis the positive stereotype rather than the negative one—thus performing better at math.
More is contained on page three.