Saturday, June 27, 2020

Microaggressions Dynamics and Categories

Based on a summary by Nadal (2018), I will review four dynamics and three categories of microaggressions.

Four Microaggression Dynamics or Dilemmas

1. Clash of Different Realities
People who experience the same event perceive it in different ways. The offender becomes defensive if the offended person complains and may add insult to injury with such remarks as: ”You’re too sensitive,” “You need to toughen up,” “Get over it!”

2. Invisibility or unintentional bias
Most of the US government leaders and heads of large corporations are healthy white men born in America. They continue to support their traditions as the standard way to live and behave. They are the ingroup having an unrecognized implicit bias that is hard to recognize because their ways seem so normal. Immigrants and minorities are expected to adapt to the cultural norms. If those in the dominant group are confronted, they may respond with denial or rationalization. They may even overcompensate (e.g., showing a photo of Black or gay friends).

3. Minimization of harm
This dynamic is the mistaken belief that the impact or these offensive actions is minimal and does not cause much damage. The reality is of course that people who are constantly hit with nonlethal verbal pellets end up sore and angry. Offenders may be totally unaware of the constant verbal hits a minority absorbs even by the time they reach adulthood.

4. The response trap
If an offended person does not respond, the offender will never learn but the offended person pays a price. The cost of responding can be measured in the time and effort it takes, the risk of dealing with a defensive and uncaring response, or even retaliation in physical or other ways such as demotion or job loss.

Three Categories of Microaggressions

1. Microassaults
Microassaults are short but high impact verbal or nonverbal insults. Protesters may be labeled as looters or rioters suggesting violence is justified to stop them. Immigrants may be labeled as criminals, spies, or rapists justifying incarceration and deportation.

2. Microinsults
These small but identifiable actions can include following a minority or poorly dressed person around a store as if they were a thief or ignoring a Black person in a group of white people as if their opinion was of no consequence.

3. Microinvalidations
Microinvalidations are statements that contradict and therefore dismiss the experience of marginalized groups. A woman or man subject to unwanted touch or an insulting story may experience here complaint as unsubstantiated or irrational. An angry complaint is dismissed with comments like the person is too angry, too insensitive, paranoid, and other words denying the validity of the complaint.

Related Posts

Nadal, K. L. (2018). What are microaggressions? In Microaggressions and traumatic stress:Theory, research, and clinical treatment. (pp. 39–52). American Psychological Association.


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FACEBOOK   Geoff W. Sutton
TWITTER  @Geoff.W.Sutton

Publications (many free downloads)
Academia   Geoff W Sutton   (PhD)     
  ResearchGate   Geoffrey W Sutton   (PhD)

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Psychology of Prejudice and Discrimination

Prejudice is a negative feeling or attitude toward an individual or class of people based on assumptions about the cultural group to which they are assigned based on some presumed feature of the people in that group.

Prejudice involves an evaluation process directed at a social group and therefore, toward the members of that group. There is a negative emotional component to the evaluation.

Discrimination is a negative action toward a person because of their association with a particular group. Acts of discrimination include avoiding, excluding, and ignoring people. Discrimination also involves biased treatment of group members.

ABC theory of discrimination
The ABC theory of discrimination describes the connections among the three concepts of stereotype, prejudice, and discrimination. A represents affect or the emotional component, which is prejudice. B represents behavior, which is an act of discrimination. C represents cognition. Stereotypes are cognitive beliefs. The combination of a negative stereotype and the negative feelings of prejudice lead to acts of discrimination under certain conditions.

Discrimination functions to promote the groups with which we identify. We feel connected to the members of our group, which results in a favorable ingroup bias. We tend to think our group is better than other groups and treat members of other groups less favorably than our own. In short, we tend to discriminate. 

Scapegoating is blaming an outgroup for a problem our ingroup has experienced.

Self-fulfilling prophecy can occur when one group treats another based on a stereotype. Then the stereotyped person begins to act in the way they were treated, which confirms the stereotype.

Reducing Prejudice

Some research supports the value of social contact and diversity within schools in reducing ethnic prejudice according to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) (

Persuasive messages in public media have not been effective in reducing prejudice according to EHRC. Sometimes messages backfire by increasing prejudice among people who were ambivalent in their feelings toward an outgroup before reading the message.

Values that are widely accepted are treated as fact and are often not questioned.

Diversity training research suggests a negative outcome when people are confronted with their own prejudices become angry and defensive or feel guilty and avoid the issue (Pendry et al., 2007 cited in the EHRC report).

Empathy and perspective-taking may be helpful. Students who were asked to take the perspective of the elderly reduced stereotypes.  A study of Walking Through White Privilege, which describes the advantages of the white majority risks increasing resentment and social distance between groups. The advantaged group can be limited in progress by their guilt and/or anger. The minority group may strengthen their views of the inequality and discrimination in society (EHRC).

Awareness programs such as using the Implicit Association Test have been a problem because participants have difficulty understanding the results. In addition, psychologists question exactly what the test measures.

A bottom line is that programs are likely to fail when participants are not motivated.

 EHRC report address: 

Related Books

by Craig Haney (2020)

Sutton, G. W. (2020). Counseling and psychotherapy with Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians: Culture & Research | Assessment & Practice. Springfield, MO: Sunflower.  ISBN-13 : 979-8681036524 AMAZON  See chapters 7 and 8.

See also a related concept


My Page
My Books  AMAZON                       GOOGLE STORE

FACEBOOK   Geoff W. Sutton
TWITTER  @Geoff.W.Sutton

Publications (many free downloads)
Academia   Geoff W Sutton   (PhD)     
  ResearchGate   Geoffrey W Sutton   (PhD)