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Friday, January 13, 2017

Top Research Psychologist Calls for Abandonment of the Term 'Microaggression'

Scott Lilienfeld, a professor of psychology at Emory University, in a new paper, Microaggressions, calls for the abandonment of the term "microaggression," and for a moratorium on microaggression training programs and publicly distributed microaggression lists pending research to address the microaggression research program's scientific limitations.

The abstract:
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.
In his book, 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology: Shattering Widespread Misconceptions about Human Behavior, written with Steven Jay Lynn, John Ruscio and Barry Beyerstein, Lilienfeld examines 50 common myths about psychology and provides readers with a "myth busting kit" to help learn critical thinking skills and understand sources of psychological myths: word of mouth, inferring causation from correlation, misleading film and media portrayals and the like. The book includes such topics as the percent of brain power people use, the use of products such as Baby Einstein in child development, subliminal messaging in advertising, the use of hypnosis for memory retrieval, and symbolism in dreams.

 

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