Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Applied Cognitive Science and Human Factors (PhD)

Administrative Home Department

Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences

Advisor 1

Lorelle Meadows

Advisor 2

Kelly Steelman

Committee Member 1

Elizabeth Veinott

Committee Member 2

Emily Dare


This dissertation builds on knowledge of how witnesses recognize subtle gender bias (often referred to as gendered microaggressions) in a STEM undergraduate context. This body of work provides a better understanding of the implications of observing these events of subtle bias and the role that recognition plays in providing opportunities to adopt stereotype defying behaviors. The impressions and influences on both witnesses who belong to the marginalized group (target witnesses) and those in majority groups (non-target witnesses) were examined. Three interrelated studies explored how recognition might disrupt the cyclic impact of subtle gender bias when participants witness collaborative STEM team interactions via video. Study 1 was a quantitative study, assessing the influence of witnessing subtle gender bias on stereotype endorsement, revealing that witnessing subtle gender bias can increase explicit endorsement of gender stereotypic beliefs for both men and women. However, those who recognize bias report lower explicit endorsement of STEM stereotypes, at a level comparable to not witnessing bias. Thus, recognition of bias may serve the role of breaking a recursive process that allows the propagation of STEM gender stereotypes. Study 2 assessed these same effects on performance and persistence, finding that when women detected gender bias in the environment, they were less enthused about engagement with the team they observed, even though their performance on a spatial ability test was not negatively impacted. Because recognition can change how people endorse stereotypes and how they feel about joining an environment, Study 3 focused on how individuals recognize bias. This qualitative study targeted a majority population (cis-gendered white men). The aim was to understand the cues, feelings, and mental models they used while observing and making sense of subtle gender bias events as they witnessed STEM team interactions. The three studies provide novel contributions to understanding the majority population’s key mental models related to subtle gender bias detection, and emphasized the role of mainstream language, empathy, and emotional intelligence on the recognition of subtle gender bias.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.