Experiencing Discrimination Increases Risk Taking
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1177/0956797612448194
Prior research has revealed racial disparities in health outcomes and health-compromising behaviors, such as smoking and drug abuse. It has been suggested that discrimination contributes to such disparities, but the mechanisms through which this might occur are not well understood. In the research reported here, we examined whether the experience of discrimination affects acute physiological stress responses and increases risk-taking behavior. Black and White participants each received rejecting feedback from partners who were either of their own race (in-group rejection) or of a different race (out-group rejection, which could be interpreted as discrimination). Physiological (cardiovascular and neuroendocrine) changes, cognition (memory and attentional bias), affect, and risk-taking behavior were assessed. Significant participant race × partner race interactions were observed. Cross-race rejection, compared with same-race rejection, was associated with lower levels of cortisol, increased cardiac output, decreased vascular resistance, greater anger, increased attentional bias, and more risk-taking behavior. These data suggest that perceived discrimination is associated with distinct profiles of physiological reactivity, affect, cognitive processing, and risk taking, implicating direct and indirect pathways to health disparities.