How do you respond to stereotypes? You know, gems like 'men are better at maths', 'women are more prone to gossip'. Do you ignore them, agree with them, laugh them off, feel determined to prove the opposite, think of people you know who don't fit that description? Well, some research projects have shown that perhaps they have more impact on us than we realise.
For example, psychologist Sian Beilock recruited some female university students and asked them to take a maths test. One group of students were told that the purpose of the research was to understand why men, in general, do better than women at maths; the others were just asked to do the test. The women in the first group who were reminded of the stereotype that women are worse at maths did worse in the test, getting 10-15% fewer marks. Beilock argued that they were responding to 'stereotype threat' - allowing anxiety to stop us succeeding because we know that we're expected to fail. The same result was gained with elderly people who were asked to do a memory test. Those who were reminded that memory declines with age proved more forgetful. And in tests with school children, asking them to tick a box to indicate their ethnicity before completing an intellectual ability test caused black pupils to do worse than if there were no tick box. More details here.
It's interesting to think that we might be sabotaging ourselves without consciously meaning to, and it shows how important it is to carry with us a sense of who we are and what God has called us to, whatever our gender, age or ethnicity. What stereotypes might be holding you back today?