Combatting Stereotype Threat

Anthony M. Johnson

Anthony M. Johnson talks about an insidious obstacle for women and minority scientists.



In her article on hidden biases (OPN, May 2012), former OSA President Elsa Garmire alluded to a phenomenon known as “stereotype threat,” which refers to the fear that one’s academic or job performance might confirm a negative stereotype about their gender or ethnic group. When I started my career 32 years ago, I’d never heard of this term—although I was acutely aware that I was the only African-American physicist in my department. For that reason, I wanted to do exceptionally well, and that added a lot of pressure to an already stressful environment.

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