His research focuses on the psychological experience of the individual and, particularly, on the experience of threats to the self and the consequences of those threats. His early work considered the self-image threat, self-affirmation and its role in self-regulation, the academic under-achievement of minority students, and the role of alcohol and drug use in self-regulation processes and social behavior. While at Stanford University, he further developed the theory of stereotype threat, designating a common process through which people from different groups, being threatened by different stereotypes, can have quite different experiences in the same situation. The theory has also been used to understand group differences in performance ranging from the intellectual to the athletic.
Claude M. Steele is the former I. James Quillen Dean for the School of Education at Stanford University, the former Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost of UC Berkeley, and currently is Professor of Psychology at UC Berkeley. Previously, he served as the 21st Provost of Columbia University, as well as a professor of psychology.
He was educated at Hiram College and at Ohio State University, where he received his PhD in psychology in 1971. He has received honorary degrees from the University of Michigan, the University of Chicago, Yale University, Princeton University, and from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
Before joining Columbia University, he was a faculty member at Stanford University, holding appointments as the Lucie Stern Professor in the Social Sciences, as director of the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, and as director of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. 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.