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Confronting the Burden of Hate

Industrial-Organizational Psychology student Carolyn Pham uncovers the weight of discrimination Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders face.

Carolyn Pham, doctoral student in Industrial-Organizational Psychology, works to understand and mitigate the forms of racial prejudice that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) face in their daily lives - particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, when discrimination against these groups reached disturbing levels. Her research looks at perceptions and attitudes towards AAPI individuals both in and beyond the workplace, and the effects of racial bias.

In a 2023 peer-reviewed article published in Social and Personality Psychology Compass, Pham evaluated whether exposure to an AAPI individual wearing a mask increased or decreased perceptions of threat and positivity among White Americans. Working with collaborators from Ohio University, Oregon Health and Sciences University and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 738 participants were randomly assigned to view a picture of either an AAPI or White individual who was either masked or unmasked. Following threat and attitude assessments, the authors found that exposure to masked AAPI individuals resulted in greater overall positivity towards AAPIs due to reduced perceptions of threat to both group values and health, the first study of its kind to measure actual perceptions in this subject area.

Pham also collaborated on a 2022 research publication which received an editor's commendation – only one of 13 publications to receive that distinction of nearly 1,000 total submissions. The goal of the study, published in Journal of Business and Psychology, was to assess how non-work forms of discrimination affect the general and work-related wellbeing of Asian American employees. Surveys from 311 Asian American workers revealed that discrimination outside the workplace was associated with decreased physical health and increased depression and job-related fatigue, outcomes that were exacerbated when co-worker compassion was low. The findings reveal wide-ranging, interrelated effects of racial discrimination and indicate that co-worker compassion can be an important resource in bolstering inclusivity in the workplace.