Microaggressions: Clarification, Evidence, and Impact

Perspect Psychol Sci. 2020 Jan;15(1):3-26. doi: 10.1177/1745691619827499. Epub 2019 Aug 16.


In a 2017 article in Perspectives on Psychological Science, Scott Lilienfeld critiqued the conceptual basis for microaggressions as well as the scientific rigor of scholarship on the topic. The current article provides a response that systematically analyzes the arguments and representations made in Lilienfeld's critique with regard to the concept of microaggressions and the state of the related research. I show that, in contrast to the claim that the concept of microaggressions is vague and inconsistent, the term is well defined and can be decisively linked to individual prejudice in offenders and mental-health outcomes in targets. I explain how the concept of microaggressions is connected to pathological stereotypes, power structures, structural racism, and multiple forms of racial prejudice. Also described are recent research advances that address some of Lilienfeld's original critiques. Further, this article highlights potentially problematic attitudes, assumptions, and approaches embedded in Lilienfeld's analysis that are common to the field of psychology as a whole. It is important for all academics to acknowledge and question their own biases and perspectives when conducting scientific research.

Keywords: diversity; education; ethnic differences; microaggressions; racism; validity.

Publication types

  • Comment

MeSH terms

  • Aggression*
  • Humans
  • Prejudice
  • Racism*