A question of belonging: race, social fit, and achievement

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2007 Jan;92(1):82-96. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.92.1.82.


Stigmatization can give rise to belonging uncertainty. In this state, people are sensitive to information diagnostic of the quality of their social connections. Two experiments tested how belonging uncertainty undermines the motivation and achievement of people whose group is negatively characterized in academic settings. In Experiment 1, students were led to believe that they might have few friends in an intellectual domain. Whereas White students were unaffected, Black students (stigmatized in academics) displayed a drop in their sense of belonging and potential. In Experiment 2, an intervention that mitigated doubts about social belonging in college raised the academic achievement (e.g., college grades) of Black students but not of White students. Implications for theories of achievement motivation and intervention are discussed.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Achievement*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Black or African American / psychology*
  • Cognition
  • Factor Analysis, Statistical
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Minority Groups / psychology*
  • New England
  • Social Identification*
  • Stereotyping
  • Students / psychology
  • Uncertainty
  • White People / psychology*