Microaggressions: Like a thousand small mosquito bites

In their study with more than 600 test persons, white participants were asked to imagine certain situations – for example a study unit on current events and racist political issues. Then they should indicate whether they would make statements in this connection such as: “Everyone suffers. Not just black people. “Or:” Everyone can be successful in this society if they work hard enough. “Then black test subjects were allowed to judge how racist they thought such statements were. It showed that statements that the black test persons found particularly racist were also less inclined to make white test persons. So there was some consensus about how hurtful certain statements were.

With the help of questionnaires, the psychologist also recorded how strongly the white participants tended to behave aggressively – whether verbally or physically. The more aggressive the participants, the more likely they were to resort to microaggressions. Williams’ conclusion: microaggression is indeed an intentional form of aggression and not just a cultural faux pas.

Microaggressions can lead to stress, anxiety and depression

You don’t have to share this general conclusion. Nevertheless, there is increasing evidence that microaggressions can have very real consequences for those affected. Sometimes they are compared to small mosquito bites: if you are bitten once, it itches only for a short time. But if you keep getting a sting in the same place, it may never heal.

For a review on the consequences of microaggression, the psychologist Lisa Spanierman from Arizona State University and her colleagues analyzed 138 studies. The researchers came to the conclusion that microaggressions can negatively affect mental and physical health. For example, microaggressions were physiological in those affected associated with increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

What microaggressions can actually mean for the psyche leads an extensive meta-analysis the psychologist Priscilla Lui of the Southern Methodist University in mind. If people were confronted with microaggressions to a greater extent in their lives, this was accompanied by various problems, including anxiety disorders, depression and increased stress. Those affected were more prone to addictions such as gambling, smoked more often and drank more alcohol. This applied to both people who were exposed to racist microaggression and to those who were victims of microaggression because of their sexual orientation.

“Microaggressions put a strain on the body and psyche”(Andreas Zick, social psychologist)

Microaggressions often put a strain on those affected for a long time. This is borne out by long-term data that Micere Keels from the University of Chicago collected from more than 460 black people and Latinos. Did they experience microaggression in high school They were more likely to experience symptoms of depression early in college.


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