A book about the perils of stereotyping written by one of the nation’s preeminent social psychologists has been chosen as the One Book One Northwestern selection for the 2014-15 academic year.


Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do, by Claude Steele, is a summary of Steele’s groundbreaking research on group identity and the ways in which stereotypes can undermine the performance of the people they target.


The book was published in 2010 as part of publisher W. W. Norton’s “Issues of Our Time” series, featuring books written by leading thinkers that explore ideas that matter in the new millennium.


The One Book initiative is Northwestern’s community reading program. This summer, all incoming first-year undergraduates will receive a free copy of Whistling Vivaldi as part of the program. One Book is sponsored by the Office of the President and includes dozens of lectures, films, and discussion groups related to the One Book selection. Many of these events are open to the public, and the entire community is invited to participate.


To enhance programming around the 2014-15 One Book selection and its themes, Northwestern has joined the YWCA Evanston/North Shore and the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center in presenting a widely praised traveling exhibition on race and identity titled “RACE: Are We So Different?”


Steele’s book explores what he calls “the stereotype threat,” which occurs when a person is in a situation that evokes negative stereotypes about the group to which he or she belongs.


In experiment after experiment, Steele has found that people’s fears of confirming a negative stereotype cause stress. That stress distracts them from the task at hand and, in turn, from completing the task to the best of their ability.


Steele is executive vice chancellor and provost at the University of California, Berkeley. He has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Education, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.


He has received numerous other honors, including the American Psychological Association’s Senior Award for Distinguished Contributions to Psychology in the Public Interest in 1998. He has served as dean of Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education and as provost of Columbia University.


Visit the Northwestern News Center for more information about Whistling Vivaldi and the One Book program.