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Journal Article

Threatened to distraction: Mind-wandering as a consequence of stereotype threat


Smallwood,  Jonathan
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, University of California Santa Barbara, CA, USA;
Department Social Neuroscience, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Mrazek, M. D., Chin, J. M., Schmader, T., Hartson, K. A., Smallwood, J., & Schooler, J. W. (2011). Threatened to distraction: Mind-wandering as a consequence of stereotype threat. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 47(6), 1243-1248. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2011.05.011.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0012-600A-A
Two experiments tested the hypothesis that the threat of a negative stereotype increases the frequency of mind-wandering (i.e., task-unrelated thought), thereby leading to performance impairments. Study 1 demonstrated that participants anticipating a stereotype-laden test mind-wandered more during the Sustained Attention to Response Task. Study 2 assessed mind-wandering directly using thought sampling procedures during a demanding math test. Results revealed that individuals experiencing stereotype threat experienced more off-task thoughts, which accounted for their poorer test performance compared to a control condition. These studies highlight the important role that social forces can have on mind-wandering. More specifically, these results serve as evidence for task-unrelated thought as a novel mechanism for stereotype threat-induced performance impairments.