When a researcher who has had a big influence on my personal work – Lilienfeld because of this book – writes something about a theme that has been a worry for me lately – microaggressions, programs against microagrrassion, but also safe zones and the thin line between censorship and free speech- , it would be a mistake not to share this – open access – article on this blog.
If you wonder what’s it all about:
Microaggressions are typically defined as subtle snubs, slights, and insults directed toward minorities, as well as to women and other historically stigmatized groups, that implicitly communicate or at least engender hostility.
The article in itself is not against the idea of microaggression as such, but it does warn that the present scientific evidence is weak.
This quote from the conclusion describes the position of Lilienfeld quite nicely:
I encourage microaggression researchers to continue their scholarly inquiries while substantially tempering their assertions, especially those concerning (a) the causal association between microaggressions and adverse mental health and (b) the presumed effectiveness of microaggression intervention efforts. The MRP has generated a plethora of theoretically and socially significant questions that merit thoughtful examination in coming decades. But it is not close to being ready for widespread real-world application.
The microaggression concept has recently galvanized public discussion and spread to numerous college campuses and businesses. I argue that the microaggression research program (MRP) rests on five core premises, namely, that microaggressions (1) are operationalized with sufficient clarity and consensus to afford rigorous scientific investigation; (2) are interpreted negatively by most or all minority group members; (3) reflect implicitly prejudicial and implicitly aggressive motives; (4) can be validly assessed using only respondents’ subjective reports; and (5) exert an adverse impact on recipients’ mental health. A review of the literature reveals negligible support for all five suppositions. More broadly, the MRP has been marked by an absence of connectivity to key domains of psychological science, including psychometrics, social cognition, cognitive-behavioral therapy, behavior genetics, and personality, health, and industrial-organizational psychology. Although the MRP has been fruitful in drawing the field’s attention to subtle forms of prejudice, it is far too underdeveloped on the conceptual and methodological fronts to warrant real-world application. I conclude with 18 suggestions for advancing the scientific status of the MRP, recommend abandonment of the term “microaggression,” and call for a moratorium on microaggression training programs and publicly distributed microaggression lists pending research to address the MRP’s scientific limitations.