Paper Type

Master's Thesis


College of Arts and Sciences

Degree Name

Master of Science in Psychological Science (MSPS)



NACO controlled Corporate Body

University of North Florida. Department of Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Curtis Phills

Second Advisor

Dr. Elizabeth Brown

Department Chair

Dr. Lori Lange

College Dean

Dr. Kaveri Subrahmanyam


The higher prevalence of white students on college campuses may influence how minority students see themselves within the academic setting. In essence, minority students may not feel like they belong on college campuses and this may harm their self-esteem. In particular, discrepancies between minorities' internal representations of themselves and their representations of a typical college student may drive feelings of not belonging and decrease self-esteem. The present research consisted of two phases and was designed to investigate how internal mental representations of the self and the typical college student are related to self-esteem and their sense of belonging. In Phase 1, participants generated images of their mental representations of themselves and a typical college student. There was a negative correlation between minority students' self-images and typical college student images. A notable finding in this study was that white and Black college students’ perceptions of a typical college student did not differ in brightness. In Phase 2, a new sample of participants evaluated the images generated in Phase 1 along several dimensions, including positivity, intelligence, SES, scholarship funding, SAT scores, and their academic interests (STEM major or performing arts major). The assumption that white students would be rated higher than Black students on these dimensions was not supported. This research has implications for understanding why students of all backgrounds persist or do not persist in college and STEM fields. This research also has implications for understanding the outcomes of minority underrepresentation in professional and academic settings.