How stereotype threat affects the brain dynamics of creative thinking in female students

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Jończyk, Rafał
Dickson, Daniele S.
Bel-Bahar, Tarik S.
Siddique, Zahed
van Hell, Janet G.
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Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering
The Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering teaches the design, analysis, and improvement of the systems and processes in manufacturing, consulting, and service industries by application of the principles of engineering. The Department of General Engineering was formed in 1929. In 1956 its name changed to Department of Industrial Engineering. In 1989 its name changed to the Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering.
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When people are placed in a situation where they are at risk of substantiating a negative stereotype about their social group (a scenario termed stereotype threat), the extra pressure to avoid this outcome can undermine their performance. One persistent stereotype is that women are less creative than men. We tested whether female students’ creative thinking is affected by a stereotype threat by measuring power in the alpha frequency band (8-12Hz oscillations) that has been associated with better creative thinking outcomes. Counter to expectations that a stereotype threat would reduce alpha power associated with creative thinking, participants increased alpha following the introduction of the stereotype threat. This outcome suggests that women may have attempted to increase their internal attention during the task in order to disprove the stereotype. Behaviorally, this effort did not lead to changes in creative performance suggesting that stereotype threat may have undermined creative thinking. These results join a growing school of thought in the neuroscience of creativity literature that the alpha power often seen in conjunction with creative behavior is not necessarily related to the creativity processes themselves, but rather is part of a larger network reflecting engagement of attentional resources more broadly.
This is a pre-print of the article Jończyk, Rafał, Daniele S. Dickson, Tarik S. Bel-Bahar, Gül E. Kremer, Zahed Siddique, and Janet G. van Hell. "How stereotype threat affects the brain dynamics of creative thinking in female students." OSF (2021). DOI: 10.17605/OSF.IO/Q5UMC. Copyright 2021 The Authors. Posted with permission.