A Mixed-Methods Approach to Understanding How Subtle Racial Microaggressions Affect Cognitive Performance Among Black College Students
Author ORCID Identifier
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Educational Psychology and Special Education
Ann C. Kruger, Ph.D.
Miles Irving, Ph.D.
Hongli Li, Ph.D.
Jennifer Darling-Aduana, Ph.D.
For many young adults, college is a time of self-discovery. Many students grapple with managing their newfound freedom, continuing to form their identity, and meeting the academic demands of their university throughout their collegiate experience. Black students report how these normative concerns are different and possibly exacerbated as they must deal with these new challenges in a social context where they are often victims of racial microaggressions (Solórzano et al., 2000). The current study was the first to take a mixed-methods approach, using experimental design, to understand the effect of intelligence-related racial microaggressions on cognitive task performance and possible moderators of that relationship among Black undergraduates. Cognitive performance was measured by accuracy and completion of released GRE items. Informed by the Interdisciplinary Model for African American Students’ Academic Profile (McGee, 2021) and Stereotype Threat Theory (Steele & Aronson, 1995), it was hypothesized that participants would receive a lower accuracy score and answer fewer questions after hearing the racial microaggression than before, compared to those who did not hear the racial microaggression. Hypotheses were not confirmed. It was also expected that racial identity measured by the Multidimensional Inventory of Black Identity Short (Sellers et al., 1998) and critical consciousness measured by the Short Critical Consciousness Scale (Diemer et al., 2020) would moderate the relationship between hearing the racial microaggression (or not) and accuracy score. Hypotheses were not confirmed. This study was also the first to quantitatively explore the role of consciously recognizing the racial microaggression. Interestingly, none of the participants reported recognizing the racial microaggression through the student evaluation. However, qualitative data revealed participants later admitted recognizing the racial microaggression but chose not to report it. Focus group and debriefing discussions were analyzed to understand participants’ coping mechanisms following exposure to racial microaggression. Both male and female participants typically engaged in withdrawal coping strategies (Lazarus, 2006). In addition, participants expressed wanting more opportunities to evaluate instructors, and they appreciated the study’s aims. Findings offer insight into the reporting or lack thereof racial microaggressions in academic settings and ways in which academic institutions can support Black students, as well as recommendations for future research.
McGee, Taylor, "A Mixed-Methods Approach to Understanding How Subtle Racial Microaggressions Affect Cognitive Performance Among Black College Students." Dissertation, Georgia State University, 2023.
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