Claude Steele to speak on stereotype threat at Beloit College

Renowned social psychologist Claude Steele will visit Beloit College to give a lecture on Monday, Sept. 9. Free and open to the public, the lecture titled “Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do” takes place at 7:30 p.m. in Eaton Chapel.
Steele, the I. James Quillen Dean for the School of Education at Stanford University, will speak on the issues he presented in his 2010 book of the same name. Published by W.W. Norton & Company, the book provides an inside look at his research and groundbreaking findings on stereotypes and identity.
During his visit to campus, Steele will also participate in a panel discussion of teaching and advising at Beloit and facilitate a discussion with students regarding social identity.
Steele, who previously served as the Provost of Columbia University, earned a Ph.D. in psychology at Ohio State University. His research focuses on the psychological experience of the individual and on the experience of threats to the self and the consequences of those threats. He has published articles in numerous scholarly journals, including the American Psychologist, the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, and the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.
Review of “Whistling Vivaldi: And Other Clues to How Stereotype Affect Us” (Harvard Educational Review)
Why are students of color not graduating from college at the same rate as white students? Why might white students be reluctant to take courses with a substantial number of students of color in them? What can educators do to address these problems?
In his new book, Whistling Vivaldi: And Other Clues to How Stereotypes Affect Us, social psychologist Claude Steele helps us find answers to these questions based on findings from social psychology experiments. Steele’s book sets forth an argument for understanding how contextual factors–not individual characteristics or personal beliefs motivated by prejudice or malice–help explain so-termed “racial achievement gaps” in education and ongoing societal racial and ethnic segregation.
In an accessible, page-turning account written for a general audience, Steele explains how identity contingencies–the conditions that a given social identity forces us to face and overcome in a particular setting–affect our everyday behavior and perpetuate broader societal problems. Expanding on his prior work, he focuses on a specific type of identity contingency: stereotype threat, or the fear of what people could think about us solely because of our race, gender, age, etc. An African American male walking down the street at night, for example, faces the threat of being seen as potentially violent. Steele recounts how, to deflect this stereotype threat, African American New York Times writer Brent Staples whistled Vivaldi while walking the streets of Hyde Park at night to signal to white people that he was educated and nonviolent. Another example of stereotype threat would be a white student in a class that is predominantly nonwhite facing the threat of being perceived as racist. Steele explains how such threats follow us like a “cloud.”

Read more here.