Whistling Vivaldi ~ Claude M. Steele


Date Completed: 5/30/2016

Rating: 8/10

This book approached stereotypes from a new perspective. With an advanced degree in psychology, Steele takes readers on a narrative tour of his research into identity threatens stereotype bias that provides insights into underperformance and general difference in outcomes based on identity. Steele challenges the American interest in treating each person as an individual and proposes that our identities effect the way we move through the world and the pressure we feel based on stereotypes that surround the identities we hold.

Steele’s research provides new understanding of how race affects each of us in the 21st century. Although not the sole purpose of his research and findings around identity threat, race does play a big role in his research, importantly so as the term “post racial society” gets thrown around quite a bit, a point that Steele focuses in on in his final chapters. However, Steele makes clear that this research can be extrapolated to any identity that we hold depending on the situation that we are in, particularly anytime we are situationally a minority talking about a topic that draws on stereotypes of our group.

This book was well written to be read by anyone. Whether you believe in “post racial” America or you experience racial tension every day, this book will have something new to offer you. The research was straight forward, making it difficult to deny the results. I felt enlightened and understood completely, and I hope others will find similar solace. Steele writes about women’s experiences and various racial experiences that lead to a well balanced focus on race while maintaining that stereotype threat can happen to anyone who belongs to an identity group when they are in a situation that brings forward stereotypes about that group. I would encourage everyone to read this book and think about what makes you tick. Why do you act and react in certain ways? Self awareness, while often encouraged, is rarely backed up by research that is both validating and eye-opening, at least for me. Steele provides readers with a method of talking about things that we experience often through his research and discussion thereof.

Claude M. Steele is a social psychologist and worked at University of California Berkeley, both as a professor and as vice chancellor and provost. He’s worked at many prestigious universities including Stanford and Columbia and carried the thread of his research through his work at each.


4 thoughts on “Whistling Vivaldi ~ Claude M. Steele

    1. My only real concern was that there were repetitive parts during which I zoned out that could perhaps have been written more effectively, but then again social research tends to need repetition to prove the point. There were also some things I disagreed with, such as the lack of discussion around gender possibility other than boy and girl and what stereotype threat looks like for people in the middle of two categories. However that may also be attributed to the book being a little older, published in 2010. Anyways, I think it had more to do with what I got out of it – it wasn’t an entirely new experience for me so I wished it had delved a little deeper, but I was captivated by how the research displayed stereotype threat so visibly. This book was really good and I hope people will read it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree with your points about the way social research is presented. I sometimes wonder if such books are at least in part the product of pasting several articles together and no one really reads such books for repetition. And I agree with your point about gender. Perhaps there will be an updated edition? Or is there another book that does this work? I definitely have it on my list of “If I could give a copy of a book to everyone in the world. . .”

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I’ve not found anything more up to date than this, another reason why I think this book is critical, but I hope there will be more to come in the way of this form of research. I haven’t spent any time digging around in articles. One thing I think is really effective about this being in book format is that it makes the research more accessible to the masses. Libraries don’t always carry the right subscriptions to articles that would allow anyone to read this kind of research without spending money searching for it online, which is important as well. Thanks for the critical dialogue around this!


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