Joshua Aronson, associate professor of applied psychology at New York University, will discuss "Stereotype Threat and Its Implications for Colleges and College Students" in a free public talk scheduled for 7 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 5 in Gannett Auditorium. A reception will follow.
Aronson collaborated with Claude Steele of Stanford University to publish a 1995 landmark study on "stereotype threat," which they described as a performance-inhibiting phenomenon that occurs when students confront negative expectations of the particular stereotypes assigned to them.
"Being targeted by well-known cultural stereotypes can be very threatening," Aronson says on his webpage (http://joshua.aronson.socialpsychology.org/). "It engenders a number of interesting psychological and physiological responses, many of which interfere with intellectual performance and academic motivation."
Aronson earned a B.A. degree in psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and master's and doctoral degrees in social psychology at Princeton. His awards and honors include a Career Award from the National Science Foundation; being named a fellow by the Society of Personality and Social Psychology (2011); a teaching excellence award from the NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development (2009); and receiving NYS's Daniel E. Griffiths Research Prize.
Aronson's work has shown how stereotype threat depresses the standardized test performance of African American, Latino, and female college students.
"Changing the testing situation, even subtly, to reduce stereotype threat can dramatically improve standardized test scores," Aronson said.
According to Aronson, much can be done to boost students' achievement and enjoyment of school by understanding and attending to these psychological processes. He asserts that we must fight the power of stereotypes and prejudice that foil the academic aspirations of young people subjected to suspicions of inferiority.
In a profile published on the NYU web site, Aronson said his research focuses on the psychological reasons for the gap between minorities and whites in terms of academic achievement and enjoyment of school.
Aronson said he traces his interest to his childhood, during the time of de-segregation.
"I had friends who were black and Latino who were tremendously smart, but once they got into the class they were not so smart," Aronson said. "I remember being puzzled by that and wondering why it happened."
Aronson's visit is co-sponsored by the offices of the Dean of Faculty, Vice President for Academic Affairs and the Skidmore Faculty Network.