What Effects Do Stereotype Threat and Lift Have Today?

Topic(s): diversity, fairness, selection
Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology
Article: Stereotype Lift and Stereotype Threat Effects on Subgroup Mean Differences for Cognitive Tests: A Meta-Analysis of Adult Samples
Authors: R. Priest, A. Griebie, Y. Zhou, D. Tomeh, P. Sackett
Reviewed by: Katherine Facteau

Stereotype threat occurs when people are concerned about being judged based on their group’s stereotype and their performance is affected accordingly. For example, a woman who is told that men perform better on math tests may subsequently perform poorly on the math test. Stereotype lift is basically the opposite – for example, a man performing better after being told that men are better at math.

Although past research has found that stereotype threat and lift can affect cognitive performance, the researchers in this study (Priest et al., 2023) call into question the validity of these findings for real-world, high-stakes contexts.


First, the researchers conducted an up-to-date meta-analysis (or statistical combination of many past studies) on stereotype lift. They included over 60 independent studies that totaled more than 5,000 participants. Overall, the effect of stereotype lift on test performance was small. Notably, the effect got even smaller when looking at the studies that were most similar to real-world contexts, such as those found in employee selection.

Next, the researchers examined the joint effects of both stereotype threat and lift. Black vs. White and male vs. female subgroups were compared. The researchers found that the gap between group performance increased when stereotype threat and lift were present. However, there was still a gap present in the comparison groups, indicating that stereotype threat and lift do not fully account for this performance gap.


Given the findings that stereotype lift and threat have minimal effects on test performance, practitioners who only focus on this problem to reduce subgroup differences may be missing the bigger picture. This is not to say stereotypes have no effect. Still, the small effect that they have may indicate focus is better placed elsewhere. Instead, more attention should be given to evidence-based strategies, such as testing for multiple different psychological factors, to better tackle subgroup differences in test performance.


Priest, R., Griebie, A., Zhou, Y., Tomeh, D., & Sackett, P. R. (2024). Stereotype lift and stereotype threat effects on subgroup mean differences for cognitive tests: A meta-analysis of adult samples. Journal of Applied Psychology. Advance online publication.

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