Education

University Professor Says ‘Microaggressions’ Don’t Exist

Psychology professor Scott Lilienfeld of Emory University doesn’t mean any offense, but he says the concept of “microaggressions” even existing is nonsense, reports The College Fix.

The title of Lilienfeld’s paper says it all: “Microaggressions: Strong Claims, Inadequate Evidence.” He argues that microaggressions are grounded in fiction, not fact, lack any scientific proof — and should not be part of any workplace or campus diversity training.

He suggests the term be relegated to the wastebasket of words.

“The scientific status of the microaggression research program is far too preliminary to warrant its dissemination to real-world contexts,” Lilienfeld wrote in a current issue of Perspectives on Psychological Science.

In an interview with The College Fix, he said he became fascinated with the world of microaggressions because he heard the term referenced everywhere he went from colleges to corporations, and few people bothered to question its veracity.

“I began reading the literature, and became more curious and more concerned when I realized that there was hardly any evidence supporting the concept of microaggressions,” Lilienfeld said.

But when established institutions began teaching microaggressions as something to be identified and avoided, there was an underlying assumption that there was some factual basis for this material.

Lilienfeld says this is not so.

“We know that microaggressions are correlated with negative mental health outcomes, but that finding may be confounded with a person’s pre-existing personality or mental health condition. Because microaggressions are determined by self-report, it is difficult to prove that they cause mental health problems,” Lilienfeld said.

The underlying problem with microaggression theory, he says, is that they are “totally in the eye of the beholder — anything you say could be labeled as a microaggression. In the current literature, if someone is offended by something, it is a microaggression. You simply cannot progress scientifically in this way or expect to resolve racial tensions on a college campus.”

In addition, the professor maintains that microaggression “research” ignores basic psychological science that encompasses psychometrics, social cognition, cognitive-behavioral therapy, behavior genetics, personality, health and industrial-organizational psychology.

That means the word has no value and should be forgotten.

“Though the study of microaggressions has revealed important biases, the term is a terrible one because it implies that the intention of the person is aggressive in nature and aggression implies the intent to harm,” he notes.

Although he believes that racism is a real issue in America, Lilienfeld believes a continued emphasis on microaggression training could actually increase and not lessen racial prejudices.

“Concern about microaggressions may make both sides more defensive,” Lilienfeld said. “Minority individuals may become hyper vigilant to recognize any signs of danger from speech or action. Conversely, majority members may begin to feel defensive because they have to watch every single thing they say.”

Follow David on Twitter