Journal of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 40, Issue 3, pp 377–391 | Cite as

Past racial discrimination exacerbates the effects of racial exclusion on negative affect, perceived control, and alcohol-risk cognitions among Black young adults

  • Michelle L. Stock
  • Laurel M. Peterson
  • Brianne K. Molloy
  • Sharon F. Lambert


Racial discrimination is associated with alcohol use and risky sex cognitions and behaviors, which are risk factors for negative health outcomes, including human immunodeficiency virus infection. The current study investigated the causal impact of racial discrimination on alcohol and sexual-risk cognitions while exploring potential mediators that might help explain this relation: negative affect, perceived control, and meaningful existence. We also examined if past discrimination impacts the strength of (moderates) these effects. Participants were 287 Black/African American young adults aged 18–25. They were randomly assigned to be excluded or included by White peers via the game Cyberball. Racial exclusion (vs. inclusion) predicted greater: perceived racial discrimination, negative affect, alcohol use willingness, and reduced perceived control and meaningful existence. Furthermore, excluded participants who experienced more past racial discrimination reported the lowest perceived control, and greatest negative affect and alcohol-risk cognitions. The findings suggest that past racial discrimination exacerbates the harmful health effects of immediate experiences of discrimination.


Racial discrimination Racial exclusion Alcohol cognitions Negative affect Self-control Cyberball 



This research was funded by an award from the District of Columbia Center for AIDS Research, an NIH funded program (AI117970), which is supported by the following NIH Co-Funding and Participating Institutes and Centers: NIAID, NCI, NICHD, NHLBI, NIDA, NIMH, NIA, FIC, NIGMS, NIDDK, and OAR. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Michelle L. Stock, Laurel M. Peterson, Brianne K. Molloy and Sharon F. Lambert declares that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and animal rights and Informed consent

All procedures followed were in accordance with ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation (institutional and national) and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2000. Informed consent was obtained from all participants for being included in the study.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyThe George Washington UniversityWashingtonUSA
  2. 2.Bryn Mawr CollegeBryn MawrUSA

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