Stereotype Threat

As I was reading the article by Kang and Banaji (2006) I began to really think about stereotype threat, stereotype lift and stereotype boost. I find it very interesting that many social categories perform according to the stereotype that has been placed upon them in many situations. If a woman takes a mathematics test in a group of people with men and women and she knows that her math intelligence is being tested, she will do worse on the test than if it were just for an exercise or something that didn’t quite matter. At the same time, if a black person takes a test in a room with white people and is aware that their intellect is being test, they will underperform. I find it interesting, then, that a white male would perform better when a certain stereotype about them is present as is the definition of stereotype lift.

Why is it that every other social category underperforms when they are threatened but white men perform better? While Kang and Banaji (2006) focused on the fact that these findings show that merit can be mismeasured, I seemed to wonder more so why white men would perform better when faced with a threat to their social category. Does it have to do with the fact that white men are competitive and a stereotype threat would boost their desire to do better? Or does it have to do with the fact that white men are in the highest place of privilege? Is it that because white men hold so much privilege they don’t have to actually feel threatened when their social category is being threatened with a stereotype?