Abstract: Racial and ethnic disparities in the risk and morbidity associated with psychotic symptoms and conditions may be driven by discriminating and isolating social environments. Namely, Black and immigrant populations may be at increased risk for psychotic symptoms because of stress associated with racial discrimination. Attenuated psychotic symptoms (e.g., perceptual disturbances rather than overt hallucinations) may confer risk for psychotic disorders when accompanied by significant distress. The aim of the present study is to determine whether racially-primed social exclusion in a laboratory setting causes physiological and psychological stress reactivity and whether this reactivity is stronger among high endorsers of attenuated psychotic symptoms. Using a 3X2 mixed factorial experimental design, 30 ”high” and 30 “low” scorers on a self-report inventory of attenuated psychotic symptoms will be randomly assigned to one of three conditions of social exclusion in a computerized ball-tossing game. Changes in heart rate variability and galvanic skin response will be measured during the game and self-reported emotional distress, afterwards. This will be the first study to manipulate the underlying social exclusion experienced in everyday racial discrimination to determine direct physiological stress effects in an urban young adult population. Identifying social processes that exacerbate stress in racial and ethnic minority young adults presenting with psychotic-like symptoms may inform prevention interventions and reduce psychosis risk.

Project Narrative:  Documented racial and ethnic disparities in the risk, prevalence, and morbidity associated with psychotic disorders have existed for several decades. Dr. Deidre Anglin (CCNY) will team up with Drs. Eric Fertuck (CCNY) and Regina Miranda (Hunter) to conduct an innovative social exclusion experiment designed to determine whether experiencing racially-primed social exclusion causes physiological and emotional stress among young racial and ethnic minority adults presenting with attenuated psychotic symptoms. Young ethnic minority emerging adults disproportionately report traumatic experiences of racial discrimination that may result in automatic and unconscious physiological stress responses. The implicit nature of contemporary racial discrimination may overload one’s perceptions and judgments with questions, i.e. “What is real?” and “Are my perceptions valid?” Increasing access to inclusive environments in educational and community settings and/or providing tools to mitigate the physiological and emotional stress associated with discriminatory environments may be promising areas to target in early intervention efforts, especially for racial and ethnic minority young adults. The present research proposal may identify an important link in the etiology of psychotic symptoms among ethnic minority young adults and aims to mitigate racial disparities in psychotic outcomes. Reducing this disparity is particularly important given the stigma associated with schizophrenia and other psychoses, especially in ethnic minority communities.