Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The microaggression research program: Excessively fuzzy boundaries of the microaggression construct + psychometric hazards of relying exclusively on subjective reports when detecting microaggressions

Microaggression Research and Application: Clarifications, Corrections, and Common Ground. Scott O. Lilienfeld. Perspectives on Psychological Science, August 13, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691619867117

Abstract: In this issue, Williams (p. ♦♦♦) responds to my 2017 critique in this journal of the scientific status of the microaggression research program (MRP). In some cases, she presents helpful data that partially address several of my recommendations for enhancing the MRP’s rigor. Nevertheless, because she appears to misconstrue many of my arguments regarding the MRP, many of her rebuttals are not relevant to my criticisms. Furthermore, her assertions notwithstanding, Williams does not effectively address my concerns regarding the (a) excessively fuzzy boundaries of the microaggression construct, (b) psychometric hazards of relying exclusively on subjective reports when detecting microaggressions, and (c) hypothesized causal impact of microaggressions on mental health. In other cases, Williams appears to draw causal inferences from correlational data and conflate within-group with between-group differences. Although several of Williams’s recommendations for MRP research are worth considering, I contend that some others are unlikely to be conducive to a scientific approach to microaggressions. The MRP remains a promising but provisional research program that would benefit from greater openness to outside criticism. I conclude with a discussion of areas of potential common ground in microaggression research and application.

Keywords: Microaggressions, prejudice, racism, aggression, neuroticism

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