Interview with Claude Steele

By Coert Visser (2010)

Professor Claude Steele is a social psychologist and the Provost of Columbia University. He has written the book Whistling Vivaldi: And Other Clues to How Stereotypes Affect Us about the work he and his colleagues have done on a phenomenon called 'stereotype threat'. Stereotype threat is the tendency to expect, perceive, and be influenced by negative stereotypes about one’s social category, such as one’s age, sex, sexual orientation, ethnicity, profession, nationality, political affiliation, mental health status, and so on. Stereotype threat can be harmful by creating racial, gender, and social class achievements gaps in schools and in the workplace and tensions across group lines. In this interview Claude Steele explains, among other things, what stereotype threat is and what can be done about it.

How would you explain in simple terms to people like teachers, managers, and policymakers what stereotype threat is and why it is important for them to be informed about it?

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