Cognitive Mechanisms of Trauma from Police Encounters among Black Individuals

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Black Americans historically have had a contentious relationship with police due to the violence they have endured at the hands of law enforcement (Nadal et al., 2017). Previous research has demonstrated the vast psychological consequences of intrusive police encounters (DeVylder et al., 2017). However, trauma is a largely understudied psychological outcome of police encounters for Black citizens (Bryant-Davis et al., 2017). Research on discrimination attributions for events has implicated cognitive attributions as an important predictor of the relationship between potentially racist incidents and mental health outcomes (Major & Dover, 2016). Additionally, cognitive appraisal has been identified as a very important mechanism of trauma (Sherrer, 2011). The current study seeks to fill the gaps in the literature by examining the relationships between intrusiveness of police encounters, cognitive appraisal, discrimination attributions, and trauma symptoms. Additionally, attitudes towards police are examined as a moderator on the relationship between intrusiveness of police encounters and discrimination attributions. Limitations, implications, and future directions are discussed.