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, 11 (1), e0146487

Twenty Years of Stereotype Threat Research: A Review of Psychological Mediators


Twenty Years of Stereotype Threat Research: A Review of Psychological Mediators

Charlotte R Pennington et al. PLoS One.


This systematic literature review appraises critically the mediating variables of stereotype threat. A bibliographic search was conducted across electronic databases between 1995 and 2015. The search identified 45 experiments from 38 articles and 17 unique proposed mediators that were categorized into affective/subjective (n = 6), cognitive (n = 7) and motivational mechanisms (n = 4). Empirical support was accrued for mediators such as anxiety, negative thinking, and mind-wandering, which are suggested to co-opt working memory resources under stereotype threat. Other research points to the assertion that stereotype threatened individuals may be motivated to disconfirm negative stereotypes, which can have a paradoxical effect of hampering performance. However, stereotype threat appears to affect diverse social groups in different ways, with no one mediator providing unequivocal empirical support. Underpinned by the multi-threat framework, the discussion postulates that different forms of stereotype threat may be mediated by distinct mechanisms.

Conflict of interest statement

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.


Fig 1
Fig 1. Process of article inclusion (following PRISMA).

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Grant support

The authors acknowledge support toward open access publishing by the Graduate School and the Department of Psychology at Edge Hill University. The funders had no role in the systematic review, data collection or analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.