Steele is best known for his work on stereotype threat and its application to minority student academic performance. His earlier work dealt with research on the self (e.g., self-image, self-affirmation) as well as the role of self-regulation in addictive behaviors. In 2010, he released his book, "Whistling Vivaldi and Other Clues to How Stereotypes Affect Us," summarizing years of research on stereotype threat and the underperformance of minority students in higher education.
Steele holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Hiram College, a Master of Arts in Social Psychology from Ohio State University, and a Doctor of Philosophy in Social Psychology and Statistical Psychology from Ohio State University.
He is elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences, the National Science Board, the National Academy of Education, and the American Philosophical Society.
Steele currently serves as the Chair of the Russell Sage Foundation Board of Directors, and also serves on the board of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and on the board of Scripps College. Professor Steele is a Fellow for both the American Institutes for Research and the American Academy of Political and Social Science, and serves on the Advisory Council of the MIT Media Lab.
He has served in several major academic leadership positions as the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost at UC Berkeley, the I. James Quillen Dean for the School of Education at Stanford University, and as the 21st Provost of Columbia University. Past roles also include serving as the President of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, as the President of the Western Psychological Association, and as a member of the Board of Directors of the American Psychological Society.
Professor Steele holds Honorary Doctorates from Yale University, Northwestern University, University of Chicago, University of Michigan, DePaul University and Claremont Graduate University.