Stereotype Threat in U.S. Students Abroad: Negotiating American Identity in the Age of Trump
An underinvestigated and significant source of stress for U.S. student sojourners across racial/ethnic groups is exposure to stereotypes that target their American identity. This study built on the extensive research literature on stereotype threat to investigate U.S. students’ vulnerability and reactions to being the target of stereotypes. Stereotype threat occurs when one expects to be judged negatively based on stereotypes of one’s social group and when one feels at risk of confirming these stereotypes. An online questionnaire administered to 95 students studying abroad just prior to and following the 2016 U.S. presidential election assessed predictors of, and common responses to, stereotype threat. Multiple regression analysis identified participant gender, motivational cultural intelligence (which involves attention and energy directed toward cultural differences), and exposure to Trump-related stereotypes as significant predictors of stereotype threat. Exploratory analyses indicated possible responses to stereotype threat, including distancing one’s self from a U.S. American identity and altering one’s appearance and behavior to look less American. Implications for sojourner support and for future research are discussed.
Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad