The Influence of Racial or Ethnic Discrimination a Person’s Self-Concept


Discrimination and prejudiced attitudes are assumed to be damaging aspects of society. The research presents the cognitive, emotional, and social damages related to experiencing discrimination. This research proposal focuses on determining the impacts of prejudice and how it negatively affects an individual. Eight relevant research articles provide evidence to the suggested research question and offer background information related to mental health, physical health, and self-esteem. A research experiment is explained and proposed to help demonstrate the correlation between discrimination and an individual’s low self-concept.


The topic of racial injustice and prejudiced actions has been a large part of our media encounters and daily occurrences lately. It is important that individuals understand the effects of bias whether it be racial or ethnic in society. Research suggests that prejudice and discrimination aimed toward race/ethnicity can have an effect on a person’s self-esteem and mental health. This research proposal will center around the research question: Does discrimination negatively affect an individual’s overall self-health? This could have anything to do with affecting an individual’s cognitive, mental, or physical abilities. This is worthy of conducting because of the lasting impact it could have on people. The research that will be presented below can allow society to view racism and discrimination as not only a real concept but also understand the toll it can take on those that experience it. If this research were brought to attention, society could potentially work toward phasing out conscious and subconscious discrimination.

Literature review

Individuals of society are unique in a variety of ways. America is said to be the melting pot of the world as it is comprised of many cultures and ethnicities. An academic journal published by Butler University describes the benefits of diversity in society. A diverse population provides new and varying perspectives. As new ideas are developed, innovation and creativity grow and group productivity is increased. However, these differences are not always a cause for celebration. A research article written by Debbiesiu L. Lee and Soyeon Ahn analyzes the mental health state of Asians who experience racial discrimination in Western Cultures. Their results found particular themes related to their experience with discrimination. These included things like being viewed as aliens on their own land, intelligence level, second-class citizenship, exoticization of Asian women, invisibility, etc. This research found that racial discrimination related to a greater level of depression, anxiety, suicidal tendencies, and psychological distress. Higher scores of racial discrimination resulted in lower psychological well-being. Lastly, Asian youth who experienced racial discrimination showed worse cooperation skills and are more prone to involve themselves in drug and alcohol use. One limitation to this study in regard to this proposed research question is its distinct comparable examination to the Asian race. It seems to limit as this proposed research question above hopes to gain a perspective of discrimination effects on all types of individuals. This particular article used a Meta-Analytic approach and included multiple samples to gain a broader, reliable, and more generalized source of information. This article’s main focus was not only to research the relationship between racial discrimination and mental health but also on how individual resources worked into the relationship. This research design offers an understanding of considering study participants and their varying demographics. Ahn and Lee coded specific demographics like sex, social status, education, ethnicity, etc. This helps to as they put it to, “maximize similarities and minimize differences” within the study.

Discrimination does not always need to be bluntly expressed in society. Sometimes, racial stereotypes can be an act of passive discrimination or prejudice that are just as harmful. An article written by Celeste Headlee describes the distinction between discrimination and stereotypes. She points out how thinking a specific race is better at something than another is a racist action: similar to when storeowners closely watch a black customer more intensely than others. This type of behavior can be blatant or more unconscious and otherwise known as stereotypical racism. This stereotypical behavior can be seen as prejudice and play a role in how an individual views their overall self-concept. A study comparing negative academic self-concept with black adolescents expresses the relation to racial stereotypes. Traditional stereotypes reveal that Black individuals have poorer abilities in all academic concepts compared to others. The study compared two groups of students and their responses on academic abilities. Results indicated that the broad knowledge of understood stereotypes did indeed affect the student’s responses. Evans et al. point out how academic self-concept is shaped by other people’s perceptions of their capabilities. External comparisons will begin to take a toll on young Black’s academic perception. This research study was measured using visual analog scales. This research design allowed students to answer a variety of questions about students' academic performance. This type of design would be great to be incorporated into my research proposal as it deals with individual responses.

The next article correlated very well with the several noted above. This study examined how repeated exposure to discrimination wears down positive affirmations about oneself. A statistical analysis found that Korean immigrants who experience perceived discrimination are not only distressed mentally but also get adversely emotionally and cognitively aroused. This resulted in participants feeling sad, angry, revengeful, rejected, weak, stupid, and discouraged. Just from this list, it is evident that an individual’s self-concept is put at risk when being subject to prejudiced actions. This research was informative; however, it did include a small sample size which may affect the overall data. Although they countered this by maintaining a control group of variables that could have skewed applicants’ responses like age, gender, marital status, and years of residence. This is important to consider when conducting similar research.

Discrimination does not only have to affect a racially diverse group of immigrants. Ethnic minority adolescents are also at great risk to endure perceived discrimination. An academic article written by Maykel Verkuyten points out the negative effect on adolescents’ personal self-esteem while undergoing ethnic discrimination. Additionally, a declining feeling of self-control can be a result of discrimination. This research tactic administered confidential questionnaires to multiethnic school students and gathered data from that. I could go beyond this study's hypothesis and look into how discrimination of ethnicities plays a role in affecting a student’s physical health.

An article published by the USC Department of Nursing highlights the distinctive physical health effects that come from experiencing discrimination firsthand. Related physical health effects include high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, breast cancer, and ultimately mortality. This research proves that discrimination can have lasting results on a person long after the initial experience is over. A decline of physical health can also play a big role in the stability of an individual’s mental health. This ultimately has a part in shaping the ideals of a person’s self-concept. Similarly, a study conducted by Health Services Research used a meta-analysis method to identify the link between discrimination and declining health. They similarly show the results affecting the psychological and physical components of a person’s self-concept. Increased depressive symptoms, anger, stress, BMI, blood pressure, and substance use were all listed as damages to the influences of prejudiced behaviors.

Hypotheses and Theoretical Justification

Discriminatory behavior shown towards others does affect an individual’s self-concept. Research detects an altered state of self-health including mental health, physical health, self-esteem, and academic confidence as a result of prejudiced actions. This study will seek to uncover further the truth behind how discrimination in society affects an individual’s self-concept. If individuals are exposed to a series of prejudiced behaviors, then their initial self-concept will reduce. People who are subject to that type of treatment will exhibit a negative self-perception. The study will include two separate groups of diverse participants ranging in gender, age, sexuality, and race. They will undergo specific treatment in a job applicant setting from a set authority figure.

Experimental Design

This study will be introduced as a Blind experiment. Participants will be aware that they are attending a job interview, but will not know of its contents. Fifty participants varying in race and other aspects will be split into two groups of twenty-five. Group A will attend a job interview involving passive discrimination, stereotypes, racial slurs, racist comments, etc. from the mediator/ “boss”, while Group B will act as the control band and be treated normally following acceptable societal manners. This control group will help determine if the participants in the manipulated group are truly affected when comparing their responses. After immediately receiving the news that Group A participants would not be offered the job and Group B participants getting told the company would get back to them, all candidates will receive a short in-depth questionnaire reflecting on their experience with the company. This questionnaire will be filled with a majority of matters focused on the state of that particular person’s self-concept/ self-esteem in that moment. Questions from this form will include responses to things like:

  • “I am a person of worth equal to others”
  • “I am a person of good qualities”
  • “I feel like a failure”
  • “I do things just as well as others”
  • “I am proud of the things I do”
  • “I have a positive attitude”
  • “I have respect for myself”
  • “I feel useless”
  • “I am not good enough”

A majority of citizens react similarly to blatant discrimination. These participants should be immediately affected, and ultimate distress should become apparent after reading through their responses.

The independent variable, or variable that is the cause in the experiment, is the distinct change of treatment between the two groups of interviewees. The dependent variable, otherwise known as the factor that is affected by other aspects of the research, is the participants affected self-concept responses.

Data Collection

Recruiting participants would be accomplished by highly advertising the position in a variety of locations that differ in Community Socioeconomic Status. This would confidently bring about all types of individuals from differing backgrounds. The advertising position would list the necessary qualifications but contain no age limit. This experiment would plan to select fifty participants in hope of getting twenty-five individuals per group. The goal is to eliminate any potential sampling biases. By collecting individuals from different areas, it would imply simulating the need for varying personalities, races, and ethnicities. If these variations were not met, it could potentially cause a misrepresentation of the general public. If the study were to not acquire these necessary disparities, it could also skew the results.

Research Ethics

This research could potentially harm the participants. Not in any way physically, but perhaps mentally. The damage could be unnecessary to consider dangerous if participants were informed quickly following the study. The minimal risk would be applied if applicants were to be reassured that discriminatory behavior was done entirely for the purpose of research. Participants could be protected by instilling this immediate reassurance similar to debriefing. Additionally, patients would have the private opportunity to access free therapy supposing their psyche was damaged from the experiment. This research study was ultimately performed to determine if racial or ethnic discrimination negatively affects a person’s self-concept. Recognition to understand that this is a prevalent issue in society is the main reason for the study. Mental health and overall self-worth are problematic issues for a large percentage of individuals and should not be blindly endorsed by any preventable cause.


  • Evans, A. B., Copping, K. E., Rowley, S. J., Kurtz-Costes, B. (2011). Academic self-concept in black adolescents: Do race and gender stereotypes matter? Self and Identity, 10(2), 263-277.
  • Headlee, C. (2019). Racism vs. discrimination: Why the distinction matters.
  • “Is discrimination bad for your health?” (2020, Oct. 23). Department of Nursing.
  • Lee, D. L., Ahn, S. (2011). Racial discrimination and Asian mental health: A meta-analysis.
  • The Counseling Psychologist, 39(3), 463-489. DOI: 10.1177/0011000010381791.
  • Noh, S., Kaspar, V., Wickrama, K. (2007). Overt and subtle racial discrimination and mental health: Preliminary findings for Korean immigrants. American Journal of Public Health, 97(7), 1269-1274. DOI: 10.2105/ajph.2005.085316
  • VanAlstine, J., Cox, S. R., Roden, D. M. (2015) “Cultural diversity in the United States and its impact on human development,” Journal of the Indiana Academy of the Social Sciences: Vol. 18 : Iss. 1 , Article 10.
  • Verkuyten, M. (1998). Perceived discrimination and self-esteem among ethnic minority adolescents. The Journal of Social Psychology, 138(4), 479-493. DOI: 10.1080/00224549809600402
  • Williams, D. R., Lawrence, J. A., Davis, B. A., Vu, C. (2019). Understanding how discrimination can affect health. Health Services Research. 54(S2), 1374-1388.
07 July 2022
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