First Advisor

Tom Hastings

Date of Award

Summer 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Psychology and University Honors






Storytelling, Intergroup relations, Race relations




Storytelling is a tactic often used in intergroup dialogues as a means for highlighting the human aspect of intractable identity-based conflict. In the U.S., racial dialogues are a popular method for addressing racism and exposing the systems that enable its survival. However, stories told by People of Color during these dialogues are often met with denial, dismissiveness, and even complete silence by their White counterparts. This then leads to cognitive and emotional distress for the tellers and a lack of action from the listeners. Using a theoretical analysis, this paper reviews the narrative conflict around racism and applies psychological research and theories to explain why this backlash might be happening. First, this paper dissects the overarching dominant and counter narratives that give shape to this intergroup conflict. Then, psychological concepts such as Racial Identity Development and Cognitive Dissonance Theory are applied to show how these clashing narratives might inflame conflict and skew expectations during racial dialogue. The implications regarding dominant and counter narrative, and the possibility of a shared narrative, are discussed. This paper also highlights the importance of honoring the narratives of People of Color and suggests ways in which dialogic practitioners (and White people in general) can work to mitigate White resistance.


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