Stereotypes and Belonging


It's almost impossible to talk about belonging without talking about stereotypes. While everyone experiences worries about belonging, those feelings are especially prevalent and have more of a negative impact for people who belong to groups about which negative stereotypes exist in a given environment.

  • Many students have faced subtle and explicit discrimination due to stereotypes about their group. Stereotypes exist about the performance and misbehavior of students of color and low income students, and about women’s performance in male dominated STEM fields.
  • Stereotypes can make students more unsure about if they belong in certain environments and anxious about confirming a negative stereotype about their group.
  • The stress of worrying about being stereotyped or confirming a stereotype can deplete students’ cognitive resources and make them feel less motivated and engaged in school. Over time, this can lead to lowered performance.
Good, C., Rattan, A., & Dweck, C. S. (2012). Why do women opt out? Sense of belonging and women's representation in mathematics. Journal of personality and social psychology, 102(4), 700. Schmader, T., & Johns, M. (2003). Converging evidence that stereotype threat reduces working memory capacity. Journal of personality and social psychology, 85(3), 440. Steele, C. M., & Aronson, J. (1995). Stereotype threat and the intellectual test performance of African Americans. Journal of personality and social psychology, 69(5), 797.
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