NSF-GSE Project: Taking Credit for One's Success




NSF-GSE Grant 
HRD 0936434 

Denise Sekaquaptewa, PI 


SAB measures are available for download on the link "SAB measures" located to the left.


Project Summary 

Women studying in fields non-traditional for women, including science and engineering, are proposed to show a spontaneous pattern of implicit achievement attribution, termed "stereotypic attributional bias" (SAB).  SAB is defined as a subtle form of stereotypic bias in which women's science and engineering successes are spontaneously attributed to external causes (such as luck) and their failures spontaneously attributed to internal causes (such as lack of ability). The PI hypothesizes that the tendency to engage in SAB is promoted by being in educational environments perceived as unwelcoming to women.  Features of unwelcoming environments include having few or no other female colleagues or role models, and witnessing subtle behavioral biases favoring men. It is proposed that female students pursuing science and engineering may come to engage in SAB, independent of their explicitly stated beliefs about women and science, as a result of stereotypic messages encountered in their environments.

In seven laboratory studies, the PI will test these hypotheses: 1) female students in settings perceived to be unwelcoming to women [e.g., male-dominated settings and/or those in which behavioral biases favoring men exist] will show greater SAB than women in settings more welcoming to women; 2) SAB predicts diminished motivation for and performance in science and engineering among women; 3) female science and engineering students who do not evince SAB show increased academic persistence after success feedback, whereas women who engage in SAB do not; 4) the implications of SAB will be different for White vs. African American women due to differences in the content of stereotypes regarding their race/ethnicity; and 5) an intervention designed to reduce SAB can improve women's science outcomes, as a result of increasing internal attributions for their science and engineering success.

Intellectual merit. The proposed research unites three areas of strong research interest (gender distinctiveness, implicit stereotyping, and achievement attribution) to advance understanding of women's lower participation in science and engineering compared to men. The SAB concept is a unique contribution based on sound research evidence in social psychology placed in a new theoretical framework, i.e. as an unintended, implicit attributional bias that is increased by stereotypic environmental cues and that influences academic outcomes. This project also promotes both basic experimental and applied intervention approaches to understanding, predicting, and improving academic outcomes among female science students.

Broader impacts. The proposed research will advance discovery about factors influencing female science students while promoting teaching, training and learning as undergraduate and graduate students will participate fully as student collaborators in all aspects of the project. Members of underrepresented groups will participate in the proposed research, as this project focuses directly on an important underrepresented population (women in science), and reserves key roles for racial minority and majority male and female students as research assistants as well as respondents. The proposed research will serve to enhance infrastructure for research and education, as computer technologies will be developed and collaborative contacts will be made with the university's Center for Research and Learning on Teaching, the College of Engineering, and related departments, encouraging and facilitating future research collaborations. Broad dissemination of the results of the research will be enacted in the form of research presentations and publications, in both psychology and education journals. Moreover, these results will be shared with educational, research, and diversity programs. Finally, this project will offer important and significant benefits to society, as understanding the processes influencing women in science is critical in moving toward the goal of greater representation of women in science and scientific innovation.