Examining Cognitive-Affective Reactivity to Racial Stigma: Implications for Risk Behavior
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Using electroencephalographic (EEG) research methods, the current study found that neural responses (i.e., late positive potential brain activity) to negatively-valenced visual stimuli (e.g., threatening images) were heightened after exposure to racial stigma cues. In other words, experiencing racial discrimination led to an increase in emotional reactivity to threatening situations. In line with stigma-stress-substance use theoretical frameworks, these findings suggest a neurocognitive basis for the health disparities experienced by African American populations. The findings have implications for culturally cognizant mental health care and public policy, providing a deeper understanding of the unique risk factors and mechanisms affecting racial minority groups. This study is also, to our knowledge, the first to utilize images to operationalize racial stigma, with the potential for future researchers to adopt this paradigm.