Social Psychology of Education

, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 111–137 | Cite as

Advances in stereotype threat research on African Americans: continuing challenges to the validity of its role in the achievement gap

  • Arthur L. Whaley


Over the past two decades, there have been significant advances in stereotype threat research on African Americans. The current article reviews general issues of internal validity and external validity (or generalizability) beyond college laboratories in stereotype threat studies, and as they are revealed specifically in the context of advances in research on African Americans. Research suggests an internally valid operational definition of stereotype threat relevant to the African American students’ experience is the expectation of, and reactions to, interviewer or teacher bias. The external validity of laboratory research on stereotype threat is very limited. Effect sizes and variance explained in multivariate models in most survey and field studies of stereotype threat variables are very small. Advances in stereotype threat research emphasize the relatively greater importance of school racial climate and faculty diversity in efforts to reduce the achievement gap. Interventions to improve the educational experiences of African American students should address situational factors of school racial climate, faculty diversity, and cultural competence training for non-African American instructors and interviewers.


Achievement gap African Americans External validity Internal validity Stereotype threat 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.HoustonUSA

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