April 13, 2011

"Dumb jock” is a powerful stereotype

College student-athletes are often stereotyped as “dumb jocks” or “unmotivated jocks.” According to an expert at today's conference, those types of negative stereotypes can create distress that impacts the student's ability to do well in class.

The imbalance between student-athletes' self-perception as academically capable and the negative “dumb jock” stereotype creates even more distress for African-American athletes, said Jeff Stone, a psychology professor from the University of Arizona.

“Racial identity adds an additional burden to the experience of being a student athlete on campus,” Stone said. Black student athletes, Stone added, tend to feel that the “dumb jock” stereotype is applied more often to African-American athletes than to their white counterparts.

Black athletes also feel their white counterparts receive more leniency from professors when missing classes for games or scheduling make-up work. Stone says his research also shows that academically-engaged African-American students are more affected by negative stereotypes than those who are not engaged academically.

Evidence shows negative stereotypes against college athletes can inhibit their ability to succeed in class, Stone concluded. In fact, the very term “student athlete,” which links the two different identities for students who play sports, can affect an individual’s performance. -- Kimberly McGrath

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