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The Impact of Stereotypes

Joshua Aronson discusses the nature and nurture of human intelligence


Click here to watch Joshua Aronson on BUniverse.

Joshua Aronson, an associate professor of applied psychology at New York University, talks about the impact of stereotypes on how we perform on a day-to-day basis and on tests and on how we learn. Introduced by Dean of Arts and Sciences Virginia Sapiro, he discusses the implications of experiencing stereotype threat, which, although generally referring in the United States to blacks and Latinos and to women, can include any ethnic group and even such things as age. In other words, everyone is vulnerable to stereotype threat, and he gives as an example “the feeling that you are dumb in math because you are a woman.” He suggests ways that we can better nurture intelligence. Aronson says studies show that the test score gap between black and white children is very small when they are young, but widens as they spend more time in school, “undergoing the intervention designed to help them get smarter.” He warns of increasing rates of high school dropouts: 30 percent of students in the United States drop out of school; that increases to 50 percent for blacks and Latinos.

Part of the blame for that, Aronson says, is the anti-intellectual culture of America. He says Americans are reading at lower rates than ever before and have a smaller vocabulary than they did 30 years ago. Whites get second chances, he says, but blacks who get caught up in the anti-intellectualism do not get second chances. He argues that we have misunderstood the nature of intelligence for a long time and would benefit from rethinking our definitions of intelligence.

He goes on to give concrete examples from many different studies showing that stereotyping affects performance and ways these effects can be ameliorated.

March 3, 2008, 3 p.m.
Metcalf Trustees Ballroom

About the speaker:
Joshua Aronson, an associate professor of applied psychology at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at New York University, is internationally known for his research on "stereotype threat" and minority student achievement, research that offers a strong challenge to traditional, genetic explanations of why African-Americans and Latinos perform less well on tests of intelligence than their white counterparts and why women trail men in hard math and science. Aronson earned a B.A. in psychology from the University of California and an M.A. and a Ph.D. in social psychology from Princeton University. He has received numerous awards and grants for his research, including Early Career awards from the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues and the National Science Foundation and the G. Stanley Hall Award from the American Psychological Association. He was the founding director of the Center for Research on Culture, Development, and Education at New York University.

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