Recent studies have documented that performance in a domain is hindered when individuals feel that a sociocultural group to which they belong is negatively stereotyped in that domain. We report that implicit activation of a social identity can facilitate as well as impede performance on a quantitative task. When a particular social identity was made salient at an implicit level, performance was altered in the direction predicted by the stereotype associated with the identity. Common cultural stereotypes hold that Asians have superior quantitative skills compared with other ethnic groups and that women have inferior quantitative skills compared with men. We found that Asian-American women performed better on a mathematics test when their ethnic identity was activated, but worse when their gender identity was activated, compared with a control group who had neither identity activated. Cross-cultural investigation indicated that it was the stereotype, and not the identity per se, that influenced performance.
Shih, M., Pittinsky, T. L., &Ambady, N. (1999). Stereotype susceptibility: Identity salience and shifts in quantitative performance. Psychological science, 10(1), 80-83.