Identity Threat, Belonging, and the Buffering Effects of Values Affirmation: An Intensive Longitudinal Approach

Restricted (Penn State Only)
Pasek, Michael H
Graduate Program:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
October 02, 2018
Committee Members:
  • Jonathan Emdin Cook, Dissertation Advisor
  • Jonathan Emdin Cook, Committee Chair
  • Dawn Paula Witherspoon, Committee Member
  • Christopher Daryl Cameron, Committee Member
  • Linda Marie Collins, Outside Member
  • Identity Threat
  • Belonging
  • Intervention
  • Affirmation
  • Stereotyping and Prejudice
  • Social Identity
Do discrete social identity threat experiences affect students’ trajectories of belonging in everyday life? Does values affirmation buffer belonging from naturally experienced threat? If so, how? To answer these questions, a longitudinal field study was conducted in a gateway science class at Columbia University. Students were randomly assigned to a values affirmation or control condition. Daily states were measured via three weeks of smartphone surveys centered around an exam. At baseline, negatively stereotyped racial minority students reported greater threat than did non-negatively stereotyped racial minority and racial majority students. In turn, threat was associated with lower belonging. Over the smartphone measurement period, unaffirmed students high in threat reported declines in belonging leading up to and right after an exam, but their belonging levels rebounded. Values affirmation mitigated these declines. Intraindividual processes were explored to examine psychological mechanisms. Stress levels spiked on the day of the exam, and spikes in stress were associated with dips in belonging. However, these processes do not explain values affirmation’s benefits; the intervention neither uncoupled belonging from stress nor reduced stress. Results illuminate nuanced temporal relations between threat and belonging and support the theory that values affirmation buffers belonging from naturally experienced threat. Results also highlight how perturbations in belonging may be masked by conventional research designs, demonstrating that intensive longitudinal methods may offer valuable tools to advance theory on how social identity threat and values affirmation operate in everyday life.