Monday, April 10, 2017

Psychology professor: Little scientific evidence microaggressions are even a thing

Emory University psychology Professor Scott Lilienfeld is challenging the seemingly universally accepted concept of the microaggression.

After reviewing many studies on the topic, Dr. Lilienfeld argues in his paper "Microaggressions: Strong Claims, Inadequate Evidence"  that microaggressions lack scientific proof, and therefore should not be included in workplace or campus diversity training.

Moreover, he said he believes that the term microaggression is misleading, as it implies conscious intent to harm, and thus should be abandoned.

"The scientific status of the microaggression research program is far too preliminary to warrant its dissemination to real-world contexts," he writes in his 2017 scholarly article published in Perspectives on Psychological Science.

Lilienfeld told The College Fix in a phone interview that he became interested in studying the microaggression phenomenon after noticing its ubiquitous discussion on college campuses, faculty meetings, and the corporate world.

"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.

When universities and corporations began providing microaggression detection and avoidance training, the underlying assumption was that the concept itself had been subjected to rigorous scientific scrutiny.

Lilienfeld counters that this is simply not the case.

"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 fundamental flaw, according to Lilienfeld, is the self-reported nature of the microaggression coupled with its broad definition.

"Because they are totally in the eye of the beholder - anything you say could be labeled as a microaggression," Lilienfeld said. "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."

Moreover, Lilienfeld argues that research on microaggressions does not draw upon key domains of psychological science, including: psychometrics, social cognition, cognitive-behavioral therapy, behavior genetics, and personality, health and industrial-organizational psychology.

Ultimately, he recommends entirely eliminating the term microaggression from use.

"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 noted in a phone interview.

Lilienfeld said he believes that racism does persist on college campuses and in the workplace, however he is concerned that an overuse of microaggression training may actually heighten racial tensions.

"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."

"Both sides need to talk to each other more not less. By handing out a list of phrases that you should not say because they are microaggressions stigmatizes speech and shuts down dialogue rather than encourages it," Lilienfeld said


Monk accused of running sex club allowed to stay at British Catholic school

A monk said to have run a weekly "sex club" for young boys was allowed to remain at the country's leading Roman Catholic school after multiple misconduct allegations against him.

Former pupils of the œ30,000-a-year Ampleforth College told police that they were summoned in their pyjamas to Father Jeremy Sierla's study, where they were given alcohol and said to have performed sex acts.

A criminal inquiry began in 2004 but no charges resulted. However, police were so concerned by the risk the monk posed that they wrote to the Department for Education the following year, asking that he be denied access to children.

Detectives believed that he should not be allowed "anywhere near a school"


Australian parents' outrage as schools remove the word Easter from their annual hat parades to be more 'inclusive'

Sydney schools have come under fire from angry parents after removing the word 'Easter' from annual hat parades to be more 'inclusive'.

Public schools including Bondi and Batemans Bay caused controversy after changing the event's name to call it 'happy hat day' or 'crazy hat day'.

Some schools have reinstated the wording this year in response to parents' criticism, while others have stood by the decision, according to The Daily Telegraph.

The newspaper reported that Bondi Public School is among those to backflip on their decision.

Reports last year said the school's principal Michael Jones changed the wording in 2011, telling parents the decision was made to be more 'inclusive'.

'As we are an inclusive community which celebrates our diverse range of cultures and beliefs, I have not called it an Easter Hat parade,' Mr Jones wrote in the school's newsletter in 2011.

'Many religious celebrations occur at this time of year but we want to include all students in any celebration at school.'

Meanwhile, The Daily Telegraph reported Batemans Bay Public School principal Tom Purcell has held firm on his decision, despite an online petition with 600 signatures to reinstate the hat parade's original wording.

Sarah Culic created the petition, slamming the wording of 'happy hat day' as 'nonsensical political correctness'. 'The claim that celebrating Easter in a public school is exclusive of other religions is simply untenable,' she said. 'Everyone has and should have the right to partake in [Easter] according to our constitution and tradition.'

Mother Danielle Stevenson said she would like to meet the parent who made a complaint to Batemans Bay Public School, and called the decision to rename the event as 'pathetic'

The petition has 620 signatories from people who downplayed the connection of the event to the religious celebration. 'I went to this school and [Easter hat day] was a massive memory I still have,' one signatory said.

'If it had a different name I would have most likely remembered it as just another crazy thing we did at primary school, the name itself holds value to memory, and tradition.'

'It is a parade with an Easter theme that is held just before the Easter weekend. No matter what the reason for the change is, it is an Easter Hat Parade,' another person said.

Batemans Bay Public School renaming of their hat parade reportedly came after a parent complaint, saying it was offensive and not inclusive of all cultures and religions.

One mother said on Facebook she would like to meet the parent who made the complaint and called the decision 'pathetic'.  


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