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Why are some people more perceptive about microaggressions?

Adena Young-Jones sits on steps at Missouri State University's Hill Hall.
Kevin White/Missouri State University
Adena Young-Jones is an associate professor of psychology at Missouri State University.

Our weekly program, Missouri State Journal, is a collaboration between KSMU Radio and Missouri State University. It's hosted and produced by MSU's Office of Strategic Communication, and it airs each Tuesday morning at 9:45 a.m. on KSMU. 

Much of the discussion about microaggressions has centered on racism, but it can be more expansive than that. All marginalized groups — including the LGBTQ+ community, BIPOC individuals and women — could be targeted.

Dr. Adena Young-Jones, psychology professor at Missouri State University, published a study recently on how perceptive people are to everyday microaggressions.

Participants responded to 12 statements and scenarios, rating their opinions of:

  • Level of offensiveness.
  • Likelihood of a similar situation happening.
  • Accuracy of the stereotypes portrayed.
  • Awareness of the microaggressions impacting their group and other marginalized groups.

"Men from the suburban or rural locations were less aware of these types of microaggressions than women from the same locations," she said. "But men and women from the urban settings were equally aware of those.
"Our findings may be due to the fact that in rural and suburban areas, women may be exposed more often to subtle slights."

In regards to awareness, Young-Jones found that if you’re a member of a group that is commonly targeted, you were more likely to identify microaggressions aimed at your group. However, those who were marginalized based on sexual orientation were more adept at identifying microaggressions across the board.

Nicki received a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Business Administration from Missouri State in marketing, in 2002 and 2004 respectively. After gaining experience in writing, marketing, special event planning, fundraising and public relations, she returned to the university to work in the office of strategic communication. There she tells the university’s story by sharing the stories of individuals at Missouri State.