While perceived discrimination on college campuses compromises the self-esteem, well-being and mental health of ethnic minority students, new psychology research from The University of Texas at Austin suggests the impostor phenomenon may worsen these effects.
The impostor phenomenon — or feeling like a fraud due to an inability to internalize success — has been linked to psychological distress among ethnic minority students, research shows. In the Journal of Counseling Psychology, UT Austin researchers found that these feelings of fraudulence may fuel the negative relationship between perceived discrimination and depression and anxiety among ethnic minority college students, especially African Americans.
In the study, researchers collected surveys from 322 ethnic minority students, including 106 African Americans, 102 Asian Americans and 108 Latino/a Americans, on perceived discrimination, impostor feelings and mental health. While students in all ethnic minority groups reported similar levels of impostor feelings, African American students reported more perceived discrimination.
The researchers also found that among African American students, high impostor feelings were a positive predictor of anxiety and worsened the impact of perceived discrimination on depression. Similarly, among Asian Americans, high imposter feelings predicted both anxiety and depression. However, for Latino/a students, while high impostor feelings positively predicted anxiety, low impostor feelings exacerbated the impact of perceived discrimination on depression and anxiety.