Summer Reading: "Whistling Vivaldi" by Claude M. Steele

Entering students will meet in small groups to discuss the book on how stereotypes can affect us. Copies are available in Neilson and Young Science Libraries.

Whistling Vivaldi by Claude M. Steele

Steele’s book sheds new light on American social phenomena from racial and gender gaps in test scores to the belief in the superior athletic prowess of black men. Steele discusses how identity contingencies--cues in an environment that signal particular stereotypes attached to an aspect of one’s identity--can have a drastic negative effect on a person’s functioning, and how these effects can explain racial and gender performance gaps in academic performance. He also provides a number of strategies for reducing stereotype threat and enhancing minority student performance, and offers hope that an increasing acceptance of diverse group differences can help reshape American identities.

View full page images and look inside the book at the Norton & Company’s website.

Biographical Information

Claude M. Steele is an award-winning social psychologist and currently the Vice Chancellor and Provost at the University of California Berkeley. He is recognized as a leader in the field of social psychology and for his commitment to the systematic application of social science to problems of major societal significance. His research focuses on the psychological experience of the individual, the experience of threats to the self, and the consequences of those threats. (Adapted from the National Science Board’s biography of Claude M. Steele.) 

Read more about Steele here.

Book Reviews and Related Articles

--Emily Pronin’s “Not Just Whistling Vivaldi.”

--Harvard Educational Review’s "Whistling Vivaldi."

--Tressie McMillan Cottom’s “When You Forget to Whistle Vivaldi” (Cottom’s post examines the heavy toll of stereotype threat in relation to the 2013 shooting of Jonathan Ferrell.)

Audio & Video Files

Watch interviews with Claude Steele (Youtube)

Hear Steele interviewed by NPR’s Neal Conan on ‘Talk of the Nation.’

Listen to Steele’s conversation about stereotype threat in 2011 with Stanford’s Graduate School of Education.

Optional Readings

Please Note: Resources marked with an asterisk (*) require you to enter your Smith username and password when accessing from off campus.

*Bosson, J.K., Haymovitz, E.L., & Pinel, E. “When saying and doing diverge: The effects of stereotype threat on self-reported versus non-verbal anxiety.” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 40.2 (March 2004): 247-255. 

Shapiro, J., Williams. A. “The Role of Stereotype Threats in Undermining Girls’ and Women’s Performance and interest in STEM fields.” Sex Roles, 2011.

Steele, Claude. ‘Thin Ice:  Stereotype Threat and Black College Students.’ Atlantic Monthly; August 1, 1999.  (Photograph by Fredrik Broden)

*Spencer, S. J., Steele, C. M., & Quinn, D. “Stereotype threat and women’s math performance.” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 35.1 (January 1999): 4-28.

Staples, Brent. Parallel Time: Growing Up in Black and White. Available at Neilson Library / PN4874.S67 S73 1994

Douglas, Susan J. Enlightened Sexism: the Seductive Message that Feminism’s Work is Done. Available at Young Science Library / HQ1233 .D68 2010

Other book titles related to Whistling Vivaldi are available here.

Past Summer Readings

Summer Reading 2013
My Beloved World (Sonia Sotomayor)

Summer Reading 2012
Dreaming in French (Alice Kaplan)

Summer Reading 2011
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (Rebecca Skloot)

Summer Reading 2010
Half the Sky (Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn)

Summer Reading 2009
The Green Collar Economy (Van Jones)

Summer Reading 2008
Native Guard (Natasha Trethewey)

Summer Reading 2007
Persepolis (Marjane Satrapi)

Summer Reading 2006
Mountains Beyond Mountains (Tracy Kidder)

Summer Reading 2005
Kettle Bottom (Diane Gilliam Fisher)

Summer Reading 2004
The Gangster We Are All Looking For (Lê Thi Diem Thúy)

Summer Reading 2003
Atonement (Ian McEwan)

Summer Reading 2002
Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America (Barbara Ehrenreich)

Summer Reading 2001
The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down (Anne Fadiman)

Help from a Librarian

Use Got ?'s or Help to send a question at any time, or contact Neilson  Reference at neilref@smith.edu.