Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

MA in Psychology



First Advisor

Elizabeth Brondolo

Second Advisor

Melissa Peckins


Interpersonal racial/ethnic discrimination is a risk factor for poor psychological well-being, including symptoms of depression. Emerging research suggests that changes in social cognition, including relational schemas about the self and others that facilitate navigation of the social world, may be one mechanism underlying the relation between exposure to discrimination and psychological distress. Prior studies have often examined the mediating role of one or two negative relational schemas in isolation. However, less is known about the unique and combined effects of multiple dimensions of social cognition on the relation between exposure to interpersonal racial/ethnic discrimination and depressive symptoms. This study tested a social-cognitive model of psychological consequences of perceived lifetime discrimination. An analytic sample of 278 participants recruited from a private university and from a community medical center completed surveys consisting of self-report measures of exposure to interpersonal discrimination, nine measures of relational schemas, and depressive symptoms. Participants ranged in age from 18 to 85 years old (M = 30, SD = 13.70) and 63% of all participants were female. Most participants identified as either Black (47%) or White (22%). Exploratory factor analysis was conducted to discern that the nine relational schemas mapped onto three primary social-cognitive domains: concerns about rejection and invalidation, social vigilance, and mistrust. Parallel mediation analyses, controlling for age, gender, race, life stress, and recruitment site, indicated that discrimination is associated with greater concerns about rejection and invalidation (a1b1= .10, SE = .03, 95% CI: .05, .17), and mistrust (a3b3= .05, SE= .02, 95% CI: .01, .09), and ultimately, greater depressive symptoms. Findings suggest that exposure to interpersonal discrimination may drive the development of negative relational schemas, particularly hostile attribution bias, that undermine social relationships and may ultimately culminate in symptoms of depression.

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Psychology Commons