Stereotype Threat in AR/VR

Ratan, R., Boumis, J.K., Kuang, S., Gambino, A., Huang, Kuo-Ting. (2021). Reality Stems From Modality: Stereotype Threat Effects of a STEM Game in Augmented and Virtual Reality. Frontiers in Virtual Reality, 2.


This study examined the relationship between stereotype threat, game modality (augmented reality, virtual reality), and stereotypic beliefs about STEM fields. Results of a 2 [modality] x 2 [stereotype threat] factorial, between-subjects experiment with women participants (N = 64) suggest that gender stereotypes primed before playing the STEM game in AR induced stereotype threat, but induced stereotype reactance in VR. Specifically, for participants who played in AR, the stereotype-reinforcing prompt (compared to a counter-stereotype prompt) was associated with worse STEM-game performance, which mediated an increase in stereotypical beliefs about women in STEM. Conversely, for participants who played in VR, the stereotype-reinforcing prompt was associated with better STEM-game performance and more positive (i.e., counter-stereotypic) beliefs about women in STEM, though without mediation. These findings support the claim that stereotypes triggered in a STEM-gaming context have the potential to reinforce stereotypes in STEM fields. Researchers and practitioners should consider the implication that VR is potentially more male-stereotyped than AR, while AR makes stereotyped identity characteristics more accessible than VR.

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