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Brea Banks

Mentor Department



As part of the current study, researchers sought to determine if exposure to interpersonal racial microaggression (i.e., subtle insults based on stereotypes) would lead to cognitive depletion among Black college women, as prior research suggests that there exist multiple consequences associated with exposure to racial microaggressions (Murphy et al., 2012; Salvatore & Shelton, 2007). Researchers were also interested in examining the role of coping as a resiliency factor, as research suggests that Black women engage in varied coping strategies to deal with exposure to these indignities (Lewis et al., 2013). As such, using an experimental research design, 61 participants were randomly assigned to one of four conditions: (1) microaggression with coping, (2) microaggression without coping, (3) control with coping, and (4) control without coping. In the microaggression conditions, participants were exposed to racial microaggressions from a White research assistant, while those in the control condition heard a script that was similar but non-mircroaggressive. In the coping condition, participants were promoted to engage in a deep breathing exercise after hearing the mircroaggressive or control scripts, while those in the no coping conditions were promoted to wait patiently while the researcher left the room. The hypotheses were supported, as Black college women who were exposed to racial microaggressions in the no coping conditions experienced the greater amount of cognitive depletion, as measured by Stroop (1935) color-naming task, while those in the microaggression coping condition performed similarly to those in the control conditions on the cognitive task. Thus, findings from the current study support current literature, suggesting that when individuals holding marginalized identities, specifically Black women, are exposed racial microaggressions there is a significantly increased risk of detrimental consequences on their overall cognitive functioning, but that deep breathing may mitigate the effects of the racial microaggressions for Black women.


Authors: Kaylie McGrath and Brea Banks

Take A Deep Breath: Coping And The Cognitive Consequences Of Racial Microaggression