Collections > UNC Chapel Hill Undergraduate Honors Theses Collection > A Physiological and Behavioral Investigation of the Role of Racism-Related Vigilance in Cross-Race Social Feedback

A variety of health disparities exist between White and Black individuals in the United States. These disparities persist even when accounting for factors such as socioeconomic status and access to healthcare, which suggests that the unique social experiences of belonging to a racial minority group may contribute to poorer health outcomes. Prior research has indicated that cross-race social interactions, both positive (e.g. receiving positive feedback from White individuals) and negative (e.g. experiencing discrimination) can evoke physiological stress-responses, which can ultimately influence Black individuals’ health outcomes. Inflammation is a specific physiological mechanism through which race-related social distress can manifest. Racism-related vigilance, which refers the mental actions involved in thinking about, preparing for, and anticipating potential experiences of discrimination (Hicken et al., 2013), represents one psychological construct that may be relevant to the ill-effects observed in both positive and negative cross-race interactions. The current study assesses the relationship between racism-related vigilance, perceived discrimination, and inflammation in Black individuals. It also investigates the extent of racism-related vigilance as a function of the type (e.g. positive or negative) of cross-race social feedback situations to which Black individuals are exposed. Vigilance was assessed using a self-report and a behavioral measure, which involved receiving social feedback from racial outgroup and ingroup evaluators. Inflammation was assayed via level of pro-inflammatory cytokine, interleukin-6 (IL-6) and perceived discrimination was measured via self-report. Heightened racism-related vigilance was associated perceived discrimination, but was not significantly related to levels of inflammation. Further, vigilance did not differ significantly across the different cross-race social feedback conditions. Though the findings of this study do not support predicted hypotheses, implications and future directions for the study of cross-race social experiences and their effects on race-related health disparities are discussed.