Different Sources of Threat on Math Performance for Girls and Boys: The Role of Stereotypic and Idiosyncratic Knowledge


  • Régner Isabelle
  • Selimbegovic Leila
  • Pansu Pascal
  • Monteil Jean-Marc
  • Huguet Pascal


  • Stereotype threat
  • Idiosyncratic effect
  • Personal academic experiences
  • Math performance
  • Children

document type



For 20 years, the impact of stereotypical knowledge on math performance has been intensively investigated, especially within the framework of “stereotype threat” (Steele, 1997). Stereotype threat (ST) theory and research “do not focus on the internalization of inferiority images or their consequences. Instead, they focus on the immediate situational threat that derives from the broad dissemination of negative stereotypes about one's group—the threat of possibly being judged and treated stereotypically, or of possibly self-fulfilling such a stereotype” (Steele and Aronson, 1995, p. 798). Here, we distinguish between ST and another powerful yet relatively neglected factor in the determination of math performance: self-images of inferiority derived from personal history of failure. There is some evidence that such self-images of inferiority may also lead to under performance in math tests (hereafter referred to as idiosyncratic effects). One question that arises is whether and how ST and idiosyncratic effects interact with each other, which would offer a fuller picture combining the intervention of stereotypic and idiosyncratic knowledge in math performance.

more information