The Effects of Subtle Racial Discrimination on Mood: Examining the Mediating Role of Cognitive Appraisal for Asian Americans

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The present study examined the effects of inducing the cognitive strategies of self or other-blame in response to a racist situation on situational mood with Asian American emerging adults. I manipulated responses to racism using a 2-group (randomized, between-subjects experimental design) to examine differences in self- versus other-blame. Participants watched a vignette about a common subtle racism event and were randomly assigned to the self or other-blame condition. Those in the self-blame condition were assigned a speech task to describe what they could have done to change the situation and those in the other-blame condition were asked to describe how the perpetrator is racist. After the manipulation check, there were 120 total Asian American emerging adults (Mage = 20.04, SD = 2.18; 60.8% female) in the sample; specifically, 100 participants in the other-blame condition and 20 participants in the self-blame condition successfully completed the experimental task. Multiple path analyses were used to examine the effects of the condition (self vs. other-blame) on vocal acoustics and language used during the speech task, and in turn their self-reported anger and depression, while controlling for critical consciousness and prior depression and anger. Vocal pitch mean and range were measured through the software Praat (Boersma & Weenink, 2005) and language words were assessed using the Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC; Pennebaker et al., 2015), while anger and depression were measured through the Profile of Mood States-Short Form (POMS-SF; Shacham, 1983). Results indicated that those in the other-blame group had greater pitch mean and used more positive emotion words, cognitive mechanism words, and less tentative words. There were no differences in self-reported anger and depression between the two conditions. Implications touched on the importance of racism attributions on speech and language.