Race on Aggression Research Proposal

Pages: 7 (2351 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Race

(1996), the aggressiveness of the bump, angry expression, and mumbled statement will be assessed by the observers.

Statistical Analysis -- Analysis of variance (ANOVA) will be used to determine if there is an interaction between race and setting (public/private); between race and the three categories of annoyed, verbal, and verbal + bump; race and gender; and gender and setting. For comparisons between two categories or subcategories, the students t test, two-tailed, will be used. An alpha of .05 will be used for all comparisons.


The design of this study is intended to determine whether persons with different racial identities react to insults and minor acts of aggression differently. The independent variables for this study are race, private or public setting, and the three categories of increasing aggression: 'annoyed', 'verbal racial insult', and 'verbal racial insult plus bump'. The dependent variable is the level of aggression displayed by the participants. The potential confounding factors that could influence the outcome of the study include gender, educational achievement, socioeconomic status, and cultural background (per Cohen, Nisbett, Bowdle, and Schwarz).

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There are several controls that have been included in this study. Since one of the study's focuses is on whether race predicts the level of aggression expressed by a participant, the non-confrontational independent variable was rejected as a control. Instead, the study design utilizes the transition from merely 'annoyed' to 'annoyed with verbal racial insult'. Thus the variable being tested by these two categories is the racial component of the confrontation. The additional confrontation category of annoyed with racial overtones plus a physical bump escalates the situation, so that the participant is faced with not only a verbal insult, but also a minor physical assault.

Research Proposal on Race on Aggression Race and Assignment

Based on the research of Stephan and colleagues (2011), African-American college students might be expected to react to the insults by disengaging from the situation. White college students could react along a spectrum defined by the confounding factors listed above, but in general would not be expected to disengage. In this study, disengagement has been defined as the participant expressing indifference when insulted.

Alternatively, African-American students may react differently depending on the setting. Disengagement has been recognized as a tool for surviving negative feedback from teachers (Stephan, Caudroit, Boiche, and Sarrazin, 2011), but the study design here utilizes a peer who would have little impact on the academic success of a minority college student. Since there is a significant difference between a racially-motivated insult from a professor or a peer, especially in terms of academic success, an African-American student may choose not to disengage in this study.

The reaction could also be modified by the setting, such that an insult in private by a peer may not elicit disengagement, but the potential academic consequences of reacting aggressively in public could be perceived to be sufficient to elicit situational disengagement. This academic penalty calculation could be the product of learning how to persevere within a racially biased school system (Nussbaum and Steele, 2007). The African-American college students would have had to perfect situational disengagement in order to perform well enough in school to gain admission into college.

There are several limitations to this study. The size of the confederate at the copy machine, relative to the participant, may influence whether aggression is expressed. If the confederate has a diminutive stature, there is the risk that a participant with an imposing physique may consider the insult laughable due to the size difference. However, if the same participant were to be insulted by someone of the same size, they may choose to react aggressively. The confounding factor of size difference could be addressed by controlling for weight and height differences between participants and confederates.

The other possible limitation is the racial identity and gender of the observers in the public setting. A priori, it could be argued that participants' reactions would be influenced by the race and gender of the observers. By selecting the same gender as the participant for the observers and using a bi-racial team, the influence of these potential confounding factors should be minimized. Despite these limitations, the study design should be sufficient to provide at least preliminary data that can be used to inform future studies.


Cohen, Dov, Nisbett, Richard E., Bowdle, Brian F., and Schwarz, Norbert. (1996). Insult, aggression, and the Southern culture of honor: An "Experimental Ethnography." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70(5), 945-960.

Corso, Phaedra S., Mercy, James A., Simon, Thomas R., Finkelstein, Eric A., and Miller, Ted R. (2007). Medical costs and productivity losses due to interpersonal and self-directed violence in the United States. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 32(6), 474-482.

Nussbaum, A. David and Steele, Claude M. (2007). Situational disengagement and persistence in the face of adversity. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 43, 127-134.

Schwerdtfeger, Andreas and Derakshan, Nazanin. (2010). The time line of threat processing and vagal withdrawal in response to a self-threatening stressor in cognitive avoidant copers: Evidence for vigilance-avoidance theory. Psychophysiology, 47, 786-795.

Stephan, Yannick, Caudroit, Johan, Boiche, Julie, and Sarrazin, Philippe. (2011). Predictors of situational disengagement in the academic setting: The contribution of grades,… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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