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

Rafał Jończyk, Danielle S. Dickson, Tarik S. Bel-Bahar, Gül E. Kremer, Zahed Siddique, Janet G. van Hell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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. Substantial and consistent gender disparities in STEM fields leave women vulnerable to stereotype threat, including the stereotype that women are not as good at generating creative and innovative ideas as 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, analyses showed increased alpha power 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 the stereotype threat decoupled alpha power from creative thinking outcomes. These results support 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 might be part of a larger network modulating the distribution of attentional resources more broadly.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number108306
StatePublished - Aug 13 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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