Stereotype threat is a sociological invention which seeks to rationalized why some people don't perform as well as others. In biology, for example, if a group of women didn't fare well on tests sociologists argue that if there were not enough women in the classroom, women felt like they were representing women in biology and if they didn't do well, all women would look bad. And that pressure caused them to not do well.

Outside the social justice world, in the realm of data, there is one area where women are not being told by the social sciences they are too intimidated to compete: chess. There, it's game on. 

Using data from 150,977 men and 16,158 women playing in 5,558,110 games, a new study found that women do better than ratings alone would predict against men if stereotype threat was as prevalent as claimed. Women are very underrepresented in the world of competitive chess. The samples were standard tournament chess games played between rated players from January 2008 through August 2015. The FIDE rating system continuously incorporates game outcomes to update players' ratings and thus can be used to predict who will win in a match between any two players. 

Overall, men had a higher average FIDE rating than women but women won matches against men more often than would have been predicted given each player's rating. This pattern held across the whole range of rating differences. Women outperformed expectations when playing a man compared with when they played against other women, a finding that runs contrary to the negative effect that one would expect as a result of stereotype threat.

Also, chess players hold their faces a lot. Photo: Betsy Dynako

What does that really mean for stereotype threat? Not much. Sociologists can contend that subconscious sexism in the rating system led men to be overrated and that is why women seemed to do better in actual matches.