Date of Award

12-10-2018

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Erin Tone, PhD

Second Advisor

Wing Yi (Winnie) Chan, PhD

Third Advisor

Kevin Swartout, PhD

Fourth Advisor

Akihiko Masuda, PhD

Abstract

Interracial anxiety, psychological discomfort in the context of interactions with racial outgroup members, is associated with less satisfying interracial interactions and more avoidance of interracial contact. For White Americans, avoidance of interracial contact, especially with Black Americans, is an especially pernicious outcome, as it can perpetuate racial bias and anxiety. Mindfulness, the awareness and acceptance of present-moment experience, has potential as an intervention to reduce avoidance in interracial interactions given its theoretical mechanism of weakening the relationship between anxiety and avoidance behavior, necessarily reducing anxiety. The present study examined the effects of brief mindfulness training on anxiety and avoidance behavior in an impending interracial conversation. 59 White undergraduates were presented with the image of a Black interaction partner with whom they would discuss a racially-charged topic, and their anxiety about the impending conversation was assessed. After listening to mindfulness meditation or distraction control instructions, participants were asked to arrange chairs in advance of the supposed conversation. Avoidance was measured by the distance participants placed between chairs, as well as the latency until participants’ proposed reschedule date for the conversation, when they were told that the interaction had to be postponed. It was hypothesized that condition and anxiety would significantly interact, such that positive relationships between anxiety and avoidance behaviors in the control condition would be attenuated in the mindfulness condition. Results generally did not support these hypotheses and are discussed in the context of post-hoc analyses that suggested mindfulness instructions may have functioned to increase the salience of existing trait-level anxiety.

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