Aerial shot of campus.

Selfie-Identity Matters

For young African Americans, exposure to racial discrimination — online as well as in everyday life — often leads to anxiety, depression and diminished academic performance.

Psychology professors Sally Grapin and Carrie Masia have received a $10,000 grant from the American Psychological Foundation for their project “Selfie-Identity Matters,” to explore the relations among online racial discrimination, racial centrality and academic achievement among African-American teens.

“We hypothesize that racial identity will moderate the relationship between racial discrimination and academic outcomes,” says Grapin. “Specifically, when students exhibit higher levels of racial identity, the relationship between discrimination and academic outcomes will be attenuated.”

In fact, Grapin suggests, racial identity may well be a source of “immunity” against the harmful effects of discrimination.

The team will survey more than 100 children and adolescents for the project, which will study online discrimination targeted to specific individuals as well as vicarious discrimination targeting racial and ethnic groups.

Doctoral and undergraduate students will be involved in the project that is expected to offer insight into protective mechanisms and possible intervention pathways for improving the well-being and academic achievement of African-American youth.

“This research,” says Grapin, “may have implications for interventions in schools and other community settings.”