We Can’t Breathe: Affective and Psychophysiological Reactivity of Vicarious Discrimination
Kort, Daniel Nathan
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Many high-profile incidents of police brutality against African Americans have catalyzed racial tension in police-community relations. While these current events are undoubtedly harmful for the individuals directly affected, how might they shape the health and well-being of Americans at large, who experience perceived acts of discrimination vicariously through news and social media? While connected to cardiovascular recording equipment, 84 White and 67 African American participants were randomly assigned to read and give a speech about either police brutality or car accidents that harmed African Americans. Participants also completed several positive and negative affect assessments throughout the study. Participants in the police brutality condition experienced increased reactivity in heart rate, pre-ejection period, systolic blood pressure, and respiratory sinus arrhythmia compared to participants in the car accidents condition. For systolic blood pressure, this condition effect was stronger among African Americans than Whites. Additionally, participants in the police brutality condition reported greater affective reactivity, both positive and negative, compared to participants in the control condition, and these effects were stronger among African Americans than Whites. The findings shed light on how vicarious discrimination impacts stress pathways of both White and African Americans who are not directly targeted by these incidents and have implications for physical and mental health.
- Psychology