Whistling Vivaldi

Whistling Vivaldi Characters

Claude Steele

Claude Steele is the author and narrator of Whistling Vivaldi. Throughout the book, he describes the research he’s done on stereotyping, and the surprising, sometime counterintuitive conclusions he’s drawn about human nature and human… (read full character analysis)
Minor Characters
Steven Spencer
Professor and researcher at the University of Michigan, who collaborates with Claude Steele on many of Steele’s most important experiments measuring the impact of identity threats on cognitive performance.
Richard Nisbett
Social psychologist from the University of Michigan, who collaborates with Claude Steele in the late 1980s to study the achievement gap between white and black SAT takers.
Joshua Aronson
Stanford-based social psychologist who collaborates with Claude Steele in the early 1990s to study the influence of stigma pressure on test takers and, later, the ways that affirmation can cancel out stigma pressure.
Joseph Brown
Stanford student who helps organize an experiment measuring the impact of stigma pressure on inner-city Los Angeles high school students.
Mikel Jollet
Stanford student who helps organize an experiment measuring the impact of stigma pressure on inner-city Los Angeles high school students.
Henry Louis Gates
Harvard professor of history and literature who helped organize the “Issues of Our Time” book series, in which Claude Steele’s Whistling Vivaldi is one installment.
Amin Maalouf
French essayist who argued that negative stereotypes are almost always more powerful and memorable than positive stereotypes, prefiguring Claude Steele’s research.
Henri Tajifel
Social psychologist whose research provided evidence of the existence of a “minimal group effect.”
Jean-Claude Croizet
French psychologist who runs experiments suggesting the influence of class stereotypes on French test takers.
Philip Uri Treisman
Mathematician and social theorist who organizes workshops designed to help minorities succeed in math classes by overcoming their stereotypes.
Carol Porter
Princeton-based social psychologist who studies different racial groups’ study habits.
David Nussbaum
Stanford graduate student who, along with Claude Steele, studies the phenomenon of “over-effort” for different racial groups.
Arthur Aron
Social psychologist who, with Donald Dutton, studies the ways that people confuse emotions.
Donald Dutton
Social psychologist who, with Arthur Aron, studies the ways that people confuse emotions.
Valerie Purdie-Vaughns
Social psychologist who, along with Claude Steele, develops an experiment to measure the influence of gender stereotypes on test-taking habits.
Mary Murphy
Social psychologist who, along with Claude Steele, develops an experiment to measure the influence of gender stereotypes on test-taking habits.
Paul Davies
Social psychologist who, along with Claude Steele, develops an experiment to measure the influence of gender stereotypes on test-taking habits, and later develops another experiment to measure the influence of racial stereotypes on conversation habits.
James Gross
Emotional psychologist who collaborates with Claude Steele on an experiment to measure the physiological influence of stereotyping.
Bill Bowen
President of the Andrew Mellon Foundation who, during the 1980s, organized a series of groundbreaking experiments about race and education.
Stephen Cole
Sociologist who, with Elinor Barber, ran experiments measuring the influence of identity on college performance.
Elinor Barber
Sociologist who, with Stephen Cole, ran experiments measuring the influence of identity on college performance.
Thomas Ostrom
Claude Steele’s graduate school adviser and a model for the rigorous yet encouraging feedback that Steele recommends for minority students.
Greg Walton
Social psychologist and professor who develops forms of “narrative intervention” designed to overcome stereotype threats.
Carrie Fried
Social psychologist who helps design an experiment measuring the effectiveness of narrative intervention strategies.
Catherine Good
Social psychologist who collaborates with Claude Steele on a series of experiments measuring the effectiveness of self-affirming narratives.
Julio Garcia
Social psychologist who collaborates with Claude Steele on a series of experiments measuring the effectiveness of self-affirming narratives.
Philip Goff
One of Claude Steele’s graduate students, who collaborates with Steele on a series of experiments measuring the influence of stereotypes on conversation, and the various ways of diluting the influence of these stereotypes.
Geoffrey Cohen
Graduate student who designs an experiment to measure the effectiveness of different feedback styles for minority students.
Glenn Loury
Sociologist who studies the importance of networking.
Sherman James
Epidemiologist who studies the connection between hypertension and stereotyping.
Sheryll Cashin
Writer who points out that, on many airplane flights, nobody seems to want to sit next to black passengers.
Jane Elliott
Schoolteacher who, in the late 1960s, organized a famous and infamous experiment in which she organized her children based on their eye color, in order to teach them about stereotyping.
David Brooks
Journalist who writes about the self-segregation of contemporary American society.
Brent Staples
A New York Times columnist who describes the hostility with which he was met as a black man in Chicago. Staples found that white people seemed to be frightened of him—in no small part because of the stereotype that black men are dangerous and violent.
Antonio Vivaldi
Italian Baroque composer whose music, according to Whistling Vivaldi, is a signifier of sophistication and civility, especially for educated white people.
Barack Obama
43rd President of the United States, and the nation’s first black president, whose election was widely—and wrongly, Claude Steele argues—interpreted to signal the beginning of a “post-racial America.”
Jackie Robinson
First African American baseball player to break the “color barrier” in American professional baseball.
Larry Summers
Former U.S. treasury secretary and president of Harvard, who resigned from Harvard in part because of the controversy surrounding his remarks about the possibility that women do worse than men on math tests because they’re genetically predisposed to be worse at math than men.
Anatole Broyard
Famous writer and critic who was revealed, after his death in the early 1990s, to be African American and “passing” as white.
Ted McDougal
White student who attends a class on African American political science, composed mainly of black students, and feels out of place and intimidated. Steele frequently invokes Ted’s situation as an example of how people of all backgrounds feel the influence of stereotypes.
John Henry Martin
African American victim of hypertension, interviewed by Claude Steele.
Justice Sandra Day O’Connor
Former Supreme Court justice who was the first—and, briefly, the only—woman on the court.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
As of July 2017, a current Supreme Court justice. Ginsburg served alongside Justice Sandra Day O’Connor for many years.