Faces of GIAR: Effua Sosoo

December 13, 2021

$750 (Spring 2018)

Education level at time of the grant: Master's student

Project Description: I used the Sigma Xi grant to conduct my dissertation research project, “Psychophysiological and Affective Reactivity to Vicarious Discrimination.” Despite ostensible advances in race relations in the United States, racial discrimination continues to plague our society. While an abundance of research has examined interpersonal experiences of discrimination, few studies have examined the impact of vicarious discrimination, or instances of discrimination observed but not directly experienced.

Little is known about how vicarious discrimination impacts health among Black individuals, and much of the existing research has neglected the examination of potential moderators of this relationship, significantly hindering our understanding of this phenomenon. Using a lab-based paradigm in a sample of young Black adults (N=101), this study examined a) psychophysiological (that is, sympathetic and parasympathetic) reactivity to instances of vicarious discrimination, particularly the assault and shooting of Black individuals by police; b) affective reactivity to instances of vicarious discrimination; and c) how racial identity, one important moderator, influences both psychophysiological and affective responses to vicarious discrimination.

Findings indicated that vicarious discrimination was associated with greater sympathetic reactivity, and that higher levels of racial centrality exacerbated the association between vicarious discrimination and negative  affect. This grant enabled me to purchase study materials (such as MindWare electrodes) and to compensate  research participants.   

How did the grant process or the project itself influence you as a scientist/researcher? This project enabled me to use empirical research as a tool for activism. It also shaped my identity as a scholar activist. Margot Arce de Vázquez, an educator, said, “A university professor cannot lock him-self in his ivory tower or ignore the problems of his time, his country, and those of the whole world.” I have come to wholeheartedly embrace the spirit of this quote: My purpose as a researcher is to tackle pressing social issues in hopes of engendering healing, equity, and justice.  

Where are you now? I recently completed my clinical psychology internship at the Bureau of Prisons, where I had the privilege of conducting individual and group therapy with incarcerated individuals. I have accepted a postdoctoral fellowship with the Veterans Affairs Health Care System and will be providing trauma and substance use treatment. 

Students may apply for Sigma Xi research grants by March 15 and October 1 annually at www.sigmaxi.org/giar.

More About Sigma Xi: Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society is the world’s largest multidisciplinary honor society for scientists and engineers. Its mission is to enhance the health of the research enterprise, foster integrity in science and engineering, and promote the public understanding of science for the purpose of improving the human condition. Sigma Xi chapters can be found at colleges and universities, government laboratories, and industry research centers around the world. More than 200 Nobel Prize winners have been members. The Society is based in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. www.sigmaxi.org. On Twitter: @SigmaXiSociety