Gender- and race-based standards of competence: lower minimum standards but higher ability standards for devalued groups

J Pers Soc Psychol. 1997 Mar;72(3):544-57. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.72.3.544.


Stereotypes may influence judgment via assimilation, such that individual group members are evaluated consistently with stereotypes, or via contrast, such that targets are displaced from the overall group expectation. Two models of judgment--the shifting standards model and status characteristics theory--provide some insight into predicting and interpreting these apparently contradictory effects. In 2 studies involving a simulated applicant-evaluation setting, we predicted and found that participants set lower minimum-competency standards, but higher ability standards, for female than for male and for Black than for White applicants. Thus, although it may be easier for low- than high-status group members to meet (low) standards, these same people must work harder to prove that their performance is ability based.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Judgment
  • Male
  • Professional Competence*
  • Racial Groups*
  • Sex Factors
  • Sex*
  • Stereotyping