Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy


Psychology, Clinical-Community

Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Matthew Taylor, Ph.D.


Matthew Taylor, Ph.D.

Emily Gerstein, Ph.D.

Susan Kashubeck-West, Ph.D.

Sha-Lai Williams, Ph.D.


Substantive evidence demonstrates that targets of racial discrimination (i.e., people of color) are acutely aware of racial microaggressions when they occur. Far less research has explored the interpretive experiences of perpetrators and bystanders of race-related prejudice and discrimination, individuals who are typically White. The current study sought to identify personal and situational factors that affect Whites’ recognition of racial microaggressions. The sample consisted of self-identified exclusively White/Caucasian adults (N=210) who completed questionnaires exploring Belief in a Just World (BJW), Social Dominance Orientation (SDO), and three facets of Ethnocultural Empathy (Awareness, Perspective-Taking, and Empathic Action). Participants were randomly assigned to receive one of two primes (a) mortality salience or (b) neutral, and were then presented with vignettes to evaluate. It was hypothesized that participants who experienced mortality salience prior to judging racially microaggressive vignettes would be less likely to identify the vignettes as microaggressive. Analyses revealed that there were no significant differences between the mortality salience group and control group on their recognition of racial microaggressions. However, BJW, SDO, Awareness, Perspective-Taking, and Empathic Action each independently predicted Whites’ recognition of racial microaggressions. Among these five independent variables, Awareness (awareness of contemporary racism and privilege) emerged as the predominant predictive variable in an all-inclusive model. Future directions include replication of these findings and refining a measure of microaggression recognition.