Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa


  • Camara Jules P. Harrell (a1), Tanisha I. Burford (a2), Brandi N. Cage (a3), Travette McNair Nelson (a1), Sheronda Shearon (a1), Adrian Thompson (a1) and Steven Green (a1)...

This commentary discusses advances in the conceptual understanding of racism and selected research findings in the social neurosciences. The traditional stress and coping model holds that racism constitutes a source of aversive experiences that, when perceived by the individual, eventually lead to poor health outcomes. Current evidence points to additional psychophysiological pathways linking facets of racist environments with physiological reactions that contribute to disease. The alternative pathways emphasize prenatal experiences, subcortical emotional neural circuits, conscious and preconscious emotion regulation, perseverative cognitions, and negative affective states stemming from racist cognitive schemata. Recognition of these pathways challenges change agents to use an array of cognitive and self-controlling interventions in mitigating racism's impact. Additionally, it charges policy makers to develop strategies that eliminate deep-seated structural aspects of racism in society.

Corresponding author
Camara Jules P. Harrell, Department of Psychology, Howard University, Washington, DC 20059. E-mail:
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

David J. P. Barker (2002). Fetal Programming in Coronary Heart Disease. Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism, 13(9): 364368.

Debra J. Barksdale , Eugene R. Farrug , and Kimberly Harkness (2009). Racial Discrimination and Blood Pressure: Perceptions, Emotions, and Behaviors of Black American Adults. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 30(2): 104111.

Danielle L. Beatty and Karen A. Matthews (2009). Unfair Treatment and Trait Anger in Relation to Nighttime Ambulatory Blood Pressure in African American and White Adolescents. Psychosomatic Medicine, 71(8): 813820.

Jim Blascovich , Steven J. Spencer , Dianne Quinn , and Claude M. Steele (2001). African Amerians and High Blood Pressure: The Role of Stereotype Threat. Psychological Sciences, 12(2): 225229.

Eduardo Bonilla-Silva (1997). Rethinking Racism: Toward a Structural Interpretation. American Sociological Review, 62(3): 465480.

Elizabeth Brondolo , Daniel J. Libby , Ellen-ge Denton , Shola Thompson , Danielle L. Beatty , Joseph Schwartz , Monica Sweeney , Jonathan N. Tobin , Andrea Cassells , Thomas G. Pickering , and William Gerin (2008). Racism and Ambulatory Blood Pressure in a Community Sample. Psychosomatic Medicine, 70(1): 4956.

Elizabeth Brondolo , Ricardo Rieppi , Kimberly Kelly , and William Gerin (2003). Perceived Racism and Blood Pressure: A Review of the Literature and Conceptual and Methodological Critique. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 25(1): 5565.

Jos F. Brosschot , William Gerin , and Julian F. Thayer (2006). The Perseverative Cognition Hypothesis: A Review of Worry, Prolonged Stress-Related Physiological Activation, and Health. Journal of Psychosomatic. Research, 60(2): 113124.

Jos F. Brosschot , Bart Verkuil , and Julian F. Thayer (2010). Conscious and Unconscious Perseverative Cognition: Is a Large Part of Prolonged Physiological Activity Due to Unconscious Stress? Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 69(4): 407416.

David H. Chae , Karen D. Lincoln , Nancy E. Adler , and S. Leonard Dyme (2010). Do Experiences of Racial Discrimination Predict Cardiovascular Disease Among African American Men? The Moderating Role of Internalized Negative Racial Group Attitudes. Social Science and Medicine, 71(6): 11821188.

Rodney Clark , Norman B. Anderson , Vernessa R. Clark , and David R. Williams (1999). Racism as a Stressor for African Americans: A Biopsychosocial Model. American Psychologist, 54(10): 805816.

James W. Collins , Richard J. David , Adren Handler , and Stephen Andes (2004). Very Low Birth Weight in African American Infants: The Role of Maternal Exposure to Interpersonal Racial Discrimination. American Journal of Public Health, 94(12): 21322138.

James W. Collins , Richard J. David , Rebecca Symons , Adren Handler , Stephen N. Wall , and Lisa Dwyer (2000). Low-Income African-American Mothers' Perception of Exposure to Racial Discrimination and Infant Birth Weight. Epidemiology, 11(3): 337339.

Ansgar Conrad and Walton T. Roth (2007). Muscle Relaxation Therapy for Anxiety Disorders: It Works but How? Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 21(3): 243264.

Irene Daum , Shelley Channon , Charles E. Polkey , and Jeffrey A. Gray (1991). Classical Conditioning After Temporal Lobe Lesions in Man: Impairment in Conditional Discriminations. Behavioral Neuroscience, 105(3): 396408.

Richard J. Davidson (2000). Affective Style, Psychopathology, and Resilience: Brain Mechanism and Plasticity. American Psychologist, 55(11): 11961214.

Richard J. Davidson , Jon Kabat-Zinn , Jessica Schumacher , Melissa Rosenkranz , Daniel Muller , Saki F. Santorelli , Ferris Urbanowski , Ann Harrington , Katherine Bonus , and John F. Sheridan (2003). Alterations in Brain and Immune Function Produced by Mindful Meditation. Psychosomatic Medicine, 65(4): 564570.

William W. Dressler and James Bindon (2000). The Health Consequence of Cultural Consonance: Cultural Dimensions of Lifestyle, Social Support, and Arterial Blood Pressure in an African American Community. American Anthropologist, 102(2): 244260.

Richard Eckersly (2005). Is Modern Western Culture a Health Hazard? International Journal of Epidemiology, 35(2): 252258.

Naomi Eisenberger , Matthew D. Lieberman , and Kipling D. Williams (2003). Does Rejection Hurt? An fMRI Study of Social Exclusion. Science, 302(10): 290292.

Emee V. Estacio (2009). Editorial: Media Exploitation, Racism, and Health. Journal of Health Psychology, 14(2): 155157.

Barbara L. Fredrickson (1998). What Good are Positive Emotions? Review of General Psychology, 2(3): 300319.

Barbara L. Fredrickson (2001). The Role of Positive Emotions in Positive Psychology: The Broaden-and-Build Theory of Positive Emotions. American Psychologist, 56(3): 218226.

Cheryl L. Giscombe and Marci Lobel (2005). Explaining Disproportionately High Rates of Adverse Birth Outcomes Among African Americans: The Impact of Stress, Racism, and Related Factors in Pregnancy. Psychological Bulletin, 131(5): 662683.

Philippe R. Golden , Kateri McRae , Wiveka Rand , and James J. Gross (2008). The Neural Bases of Emotion Regulation: Reappraisal and Suppression of Negative Emotions, Biological Psychiatry, 63(6): 577586.

Natasha A. Greene and Vernon R. Morris (2006). Assessment of Public Health Risks Associated with Atmospheric Exposure to PM2.5 in Washington, DC, USA. International Journal of Environmental Research in Public Health, 3(1): 8697.

James J. Gross and Oliver P. John (2003). Individual Difference in Two Emotion Regulation Processes. Implication for Affective Relationships and Well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85(2): 348362.

Diane M. Hall , Elaine. F. Cassidy , and Howard C. Stevenson (2008). Acting Tough in a Tough World: An Examination of Fear among Urban African American Adolescents. Journal of Black Psychology, 34(3): 381398.

Camara J. P. Harrell , Sadiki Hall , and James Taliaferro (2003). Physiological Responses to Racism and Discrimination: An Assessment of the Evidence. American Journal of Public Health, 93(2): 243248.

Shelly Harrell (2000). A Multidimensional Conceptualization of Racism-Related Stress: Implications for the Well-Being of People of Color. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 70(1): 4257.

Daren C. Jackson , Jessica R. Malmstedt , Christine L. Larson , and Richardson J. Davidson (2000). Suppression and Enhancement of Emotional Response to Unpleasant Pictures. Psychophysiology, 37(4): 515522.

Rudolf Jaenisch and Adrian Bird (2003). Epigenetic Regulation of Gene Expression: How the Genome Integrates Intrinsic and Environmental Signals. Nature Genetic Supplement, 33(3): 245254.

Margaret E. Kemeny (2009). Psychobiological Responses to Social Threat: Evolution of a Psychological Model of Psychoneuroimmunology. Brain Behavior Immunology, 23(1): 19.

Nancy Krieger (1990). Racial and Gender Discrimination: Risk Factors for High Blood Pressure. Social Science and Medicine, 30(12): 12731281.

Nancy Krieger (1994). Epidemiology and the Web of Causation: Has Anyone seen the Spider? Social Science and Medicine, 39(7): 887903.

Nancy Krieger (1999). Embodying Inequality: A Review of Concepts, Measures, and Methods for Studying Health Consequences of Discrimination. International Journal of Health Services, 29(2): 295352.

Nancy Krieger (2005). Embodiment: A Conceptual Glossary for Epidemiology. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 59(5): 350355.

Nancy Krieger and Stephen Sidney (1996). Racial Discrimination and Blood Pressure: The CARDIA Study of Young Black and White Adults. American Journal of Public Health, 86(10): 13701378.

Christopher W. Kuzawa and Elizabeth Sweet (2009). Epigenetics and the Embodiment of Race: Developmental Origins of U.S. Racial Disparities in Cardiovascular Health. American Journal of Human Biology, 21(1): 215.

Diane S. Lauderdale (2006). Birth Outcomes for Arabic-Named Women Before and After September 11. Demography, 43(1): 185201.

Robert S. Levine , James E. Foster , Robert E. Fullilove , M. T. Fullilove , Nathanial C. Briggs , Pamela C. Hull , Baqar A. Husaini , and Charles H. Hennekens (2001). Black-White Inequalities in Mortality and Life Expectancy, 1933–1999: Implications for Healthy People 2010. Public Health Reports, 116(5): 474483.

Matthew D. Lieberman , Ahmad Hariri , Johanna M. Jarcho , Naomi I. Eisenberger , Susan Y. Bookheimer (2005). An fMRI Investigation of Race-Related Amygdala Activity in African-American and Caucasian-American Individuals. Nature Neuroscience, 8(4): 720722.

Bruce. S. McEwen and Peter J. Gianaros (2010). Central Role of the Brain in Stress and Adaptation: Links to Socioeconomic Status, Health, and Disease. Annals of the New York Academy of Science, 1186: 190222.

Susan Mustillo , Nancy Krieger , Erica P. Gunderson , Steven Sidney , Heather McCreath , and Catarina I. Kiefe (2004). Self-Reported Experiences of Racial Discrimination and Black-White Differences in Preterm and Low-Birthweight Deliveries. American Journal of Public Health. 94(12): 21252131.

Paul Obrist (1981). Cardiovascular Psychophysiology: A Perspective. New York: Plenum.

Kevin Ochsner and James J. Gross (2005). The Cognitive Control of Emotion. Trends in Cognitive Neuroscience, 9(5): 242249.

Yin Paradies (2006a). A Systematic Review of Empirical Research on Self-Reported Racism and Health. International Journal of Epidemiology, 35(4): 888901.

Yin Paradies (2006b). Defining, Conceptualizing and Characterizing Racism in Health Research. Critical Public Health, 16(2): 143157.

Elizabeth A. Pascoe and Laura. S. Richman (2009). Perceived Discrimination and Health: A Meta-Analytic Review. Psychological Bulletin, 135(4): 531554.

Laura Pawlow and Gary Jones (2002). The Impact of Abbreviated Progressive Muscle Relaxation on Salivary Cortisol. Biological Psychology, 60(1): 116.

Kristin M. Phillips , Michael H. Antoni , Suzanne C. Lechner , Bonnie B. Blomberg , Maria M. Llabre , Eli Avisar , Stefan Glück , Robert DerHagopian , and Charles S. Carver (2008). Stress Management Intervention Reduces Serum Cortisol and Increases Relaxation During Treatment for Nonmetastatic Breast Cancer. Psychosomatic Medicine, 70(9): 10441049.

Stephen W. Porges (1995). Orienting in a Defensive World: Mammalian Modifications of our Evolutionary Heritage: A Polyvagal Theory. Psychophysiology, 32(4): 301318.

Stephen W. Porges (2001). Polyvagal Theory: Phylogenetic Substrates of a Social Nervous System. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 42(2): 123146.

Toni Schmader , Michael Johns , and Chad Forbes (2008). An Integrated Process Model of Stereotype Threat Effects on Performance. Psychological Review, 115(2): 336356.

Teresa Seeman , Elissa Epel , Tara Gruenewald , Arun Karlamangla , and Bruce S. McEwen (2010). Socioeconomic Differentials in Peripheral Biology: Cumulative Allostatic Load. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1186(1): 223239.

Joaquim J. Soares and Arne Ohman (1993). Backward Masking and Skin Conductance Responses After Conditioning to Nonfeared but Fear-Relevant Stimuli in Fearful Subjects. Psychophysiology, 30(5): 460466.

Julian F. Thayer and Richard D. Lane (2007). The Role of Vagal Function in the Risk of Cardiovascular Disease and Mortality. Biological Psychology, 74(2): 224242.

David R. Williams (1997). Race and Health: Basic Questions, Emerging Directions. Annals of Epidemiology, 7(5): 322333.

David R. Williams and Selina A. Mohammed (2009). Discrimination and Racial Disparities in Health: Evidence and Needed Research. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 32(1): 2047.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race
  • ISSN: 1742-058X
  • EISSN: 1742-0598
  • URL: /core/journals/du-bois-review-social-science-research-on-race
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 17
Total number of PDF views: 131 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 527 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 27th May 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.