We’ve discussed stereotype effects before (For example, here). There’s a lot of data showing that if you activate a stereotype about a particular group during badly on a task, members of that group will do badly on the task (but not if you don’t). Women, for example, do less well on maths tests if reminded of their gender in some way (even just being asked if they live in single sex accommodation).
Now there’s an important new study on gender stereotypes and chess.
In this paper it is argued that gender stereotypes are mainly responsible for the underperformance of women in chess. Forty-two male-female pairs, matched for ability, played two chess games via the Internet. When players were unaware of the sex of opponent (control condition), females played approximately as well as males. When the gender stereotype was activated (experimental condition), women showed a drastic performance drop, but only when they were aware that they were playing against a male opponent. When they (falsely) believed to be playing against a woman, they performed as well as their male opponents…
…gender stereotypes can have a greatly debilitating effect on female players leading to a 50% performance decline when playing against males. Interestingly, this disadvantage is completely removed when players are led to believe that they are playing against a woman. This may, in part, occur because women choose a more defensive style when playing with men.
Pretty impressive results, and very good to know about. (Thanks, Vishal!)