Sunday, August 08, 2010

Claude Steele's Book "Whistling Vivaldi"

I recently finished reading the book Whistling Vivaldi, by Claude Steele. Claude's brief stint as a professor at Michigan (1987-1991) overlapped partially with my cohort's time and I consider myself very fortunate to have gotten to know him as part of my graduate training.

Though Claude spent the better part of the last 20 years at Stanford (before recently moving to Columbia University to become provost), he writes at considerable length about his time in Ann Arbor. It was at UM, in fact, that his interest in, and initial research on, stereotyped group members' college underperformance (relative to these students' entering academic credentials) really crystallized.

This research is well-known within social psychology (and beyond) under the rubric of stereotype threat. In the book, Claude details several stages of stereotype-threat research he, his students, and outside investigators have undertaken over the past 20 years. In discussing research from his own lab, Claude talks about many of the graduate students who've worked with him, including Steve Spencer. Now a professor at Canada's University of Waterloo, Steve was in on the ground floor of stereotype-threat research at Michigan and remains very active in this area. Chris Crandall, who completed his doctoral studies at Michigan shortly before Claude's arrival and has independently done research pertinent to stereotype threat, is also cited throughout the book.