2021 Hill-Robinson McNair Lecture

Click Here To Register

Note: If you are registered for the 29th Annual UMBC McNair Research Conference, please ALSO register for this pre-conference event IF you will be attending!

The UMBC McNair Scholars Program will present the 3rd Annual Hill-Robinson McNair Lecture, named in honor of Cynthia M. Hill, Former UMBC Associate Provost & Founding UMBC McNair Director, and Thomas Robinson, PhD., Assistant Professor of Africana Studies and McNair Research Methods Faculty for over 28 years. Here is the link to the flier for the event. All are welcome and encouraged to attend!

Annually, we will highlight a lecturer who is an accomplished UMBC McNair alum or UMBC faculty/staff member who is an alum of a McNair program from another university. This year’s lecturer will be Dr. Antione D. Taylor, Clinical Psychologist, Adjunct Assistant Professor, UMBC, Dr. Taylor is an alumnus of UMBC as a proud McNair Scholar. Click here to read Dr. Taylor’s full biography.


Title of Lecture: The Relation between Discrimination and Cognitive Function: Moderating and Mediating Factors

Abstract: Discrimination is a chronic stressor that disproportionately affects African Americans. Chronic stress itself is a risk factor that has been linked to a plethora of negative brain health outcomes across the lifespan in both animal and human models that include damaging changes in brain structure and function, cognitive decline and increased risk for dementia. Despite an increasingly aging population, and that African Americans are disproportionately burdened by cognitive decline and dementia, little research has examined the relations of discrimination to cognitive functioning among African Americans. Using data from the Healthy Aging in Neighborhoods of Diversity across the Life Span study, multiple regression analyses were conducted on a sample of 946 socioeconomically diverse African Americans to examine the interactive relations of discrimination (assessed by the Williams’ Everyday Discrimination Scale), age and poverty status on cognitive functioning. Further analyses examined potential biobehavioral mediators of the relation of discrimination to performance on neuropsychological measures. Results revealed no significant three-way interactions of discrimination, age, and poverty status or two-way interactions of discrimination and age with respect to cognitive outcomes. There was only one significant two-way interaction of discrimination and poverty status on the Digit Span Forward subtest, such that attention was better for those who reported higher levels of discrimination and were above the poverty line, but worse for those who reported higher levels of discrimination and were below the poverty line. Results also revealed one significant association of discrimination and cognitive function such that higher levels of discrimination were related to higher scores on a measure of memory, the CVLT short delay free recall. No proposed candidate mediator attenuated the significant findings. Results indicate a relative absence of a relation of discrimination, and its interaction with age and poverty status, with cognitive function in the present, predominantly middle-aged African American sample. While the minimal significant findings may be spurious, it is possible that relations of discrimination to cognitive function may vary by socioeconomic conditions in select instances. Because the present sample was much younger than prior investigations that noted significant relations of discrimination to cognitive function, it is plausible that such associations may not be seen earlier in the lifespan. While the findings of this study were largely negative, the results represent an important contribution to the field in understanding the complex relations between discrimination and cognition among African Americans in different sociodemographic groups across the lifespan. Future research investigating relations of discrimination to cognitive function, and associated underlying mechanisms remains critical to inform efforts to reduce racial disparities in cognitive impairments.

The 2021 Hill-Robinson McNair Lecture is co-sponsored by: The UMBC McNair Scholars Program, The Dresher Center for the Humanities, The Center for Social Science Scholarship, Gender, Women’s, + Sexuality Studies, Department of Psychology, and Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Public Health.

For more information, please contact Michael A. Hunt, Program Director, UMBC McNair Scholars Program, michaelahunt@umbc.edu.