RIT/NTID receives grant to study effects of negative stereotypes on deaf students

UR will collaborate to determine if stereotype awareness hinders performance

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If members of a social group are aware that people have negative opinions about their ability to succeed in a certain discipline, can that awareness cause them to perform poorly?

That’s what researchers at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf and the University of Rochester are hoping to determine.

NTID was awarded a three-year, $534,204 grant from the National Science Foundation with a collaborative sub-award to the University of Rochester to determine if stereotypes affect the way deaf and hard-of-hearing students perform in mathematics.

Ronald R. Kelly, director of NTID’s Research on Employment and Adapting to Change (REACH) Center for Studies on Career Success, is principal investigator of the grant. Co-principal investigators include Gerald Berent and Peter Hauser, research faculty at NTID, and Jeremy Jamieson, a social psychologist at the University of Rochester.

An example of known “stereotype threat” effects is related to the stereotype that women generally do not perform as well as men in mathematics. When women are reminded of this stereotype in testing situations, their performance on the mathematics test can be negatively influenced. But when this stereotype is not mentioned, women often perform as well as or better than men on tests of mathematical knowledge.

“Research shows that stereotype threat effects can be lessened or resolved through intervention,” Kelly said. “The goal of our grant research is to explore the existence of stereotypes about deaf and hard-of-hearing students’ mathematical abilities and the extent to which their testing performance is affected by stereotype threat.”

The first year of the study will involve 80 hearing students from the University of Rochester who don’t have much contact with deaf individuals, and 80 hearing and 80 deaf or hard-of-hearing students at RIT. Each group will be examined for their perceptions and attitudes towards deaf individuals and what kind of math or non-math related fields they are able to succeed in, Kelly said.

The second and third year will involve testing 240 deaf baccalaureate students at RIT on a number of mathematics tests. Some will be reminded of a stereotype prior to the test, and others won’t. The results will show the extent to which “activating” awareness of a stereotype in advance of the test affects their performance.

While similar studies have been conducted nationwide with other groups, this is the first study to examine stereotype threat effects in deaf students, Kelly said.

The project will be conducted within the NTID REACH Center for Studies on Career Success in Rosica Hall, the NTID Deaf Studies Laboratory, and the University of Rochester social psychology laboratory.