Stop using “microaggression” or “training” students to avoid microaggressions, writes Scott. O. Lilienfeld, an Emory psychology professor, in Microaggressions: Strong Claims, Inadequate Evidence. The core premises of microaggression theory are unproven, he argues. The study was published in Perspectives on Psychological Science, a peer-reviewed journal.
“Microagressions” — “slights, insults, invalidations and indignities” — threaten the health of “marginalized groups,” say proponents of the theory. Unintentional slights are as bad as deliberate “micro-assaults.”
“Racial and cultural insensitivities” are real, he writes. But there’s “negligible evidence” that slights and snubs cause psychological harm or that they reflect prejudice or aggression.
On many college campuses, students receive training on microaggressions and warning lists of what not to say, he writes. Occidental College is considering a system to encourage students to report their professors’ microaggressions.
Lilienfeld became interested in the issue when he learned that some colleges were “telling students that statements such as “I believe that American is a land of opportunity” and “I believe that the most qualified person should get the job” constituted microaggressions,” reports Campus Reform.
“I came to the conclusion that although the microaggression concept almost surely contains a kernel of truth, it is highly problematic on numerous grounds and is not close to being ready for real-world application” he explained.
“Sensitizing individuals to subtle signs of potential anger might inadvertently end up making many of them ‘perceive’ slights even when they are not present,” Lilienfeld said. That could “exacerbate racial tensions at colleges.”
Conor Friedersdorf wrote about the rise of the victimhood culture in The Atlantic in 2015.