A Phenomenological Divide: Reference Group Consequences for Existential Isolation

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SAGE Publications


An apparent phenomenological divide between majority and minoritized groups exists in contemporary America in terms of feelings of social connection. Drawing on recent findings relating to existential isolation (i.e., the sense that one is alone in one’s subjective experience), three studies compare these feelings toward one’s in-group and out-group. Study 1 assesses whether Black and White participants vary in their self-reported existential isolation when referencing their own or another racial group. Results reveal Black Americans feel as though other Black Americans share their perceptions more than do White Americans. In contrast, White Americans report similarly shared perceptions by both racial groups. Study 2 (preregistered) assessed these effects with a concealable identity: sexual orientation. Study 3 further replicates these effects and finds effects among Black Americans to significantly differ from a neutral control condition. Implications and future directions for epistemic (in)validation are discussed.


Peter J. Helm et al, A Phenomenological Divide: Reference Group Consequences for Existential Isolation, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (, ) pp. . Copyright © 2022. DOI: 10.1177/01461672221127799. Users who receive access to an article through a repository are reminded that the article is protected by copyright and reuse is restricted to non-commercial and no derivative uses. Users may also download and save a local copy of an article accessed in an institutional repository for the user's personal reference. For permission to reuse an article, please follow our Process for Requesting Permission.


existential isolation, intergroup relations, race, sexual orientation


Helm, P. J., Jimenez, T., Carter, S., & Arndt, J. (2022). A Phenomenological Divide: Reference Group Consequences for Existential Isolation. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 0(0). https://doi.org/10.1177/01461672221127799
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