Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Paul G. Nestor

Second Advisor

Ester Shapiro

Third Advisor

Kiara Alvarez


The current study used a multitrait/multimethod approach to investigate the cultural validity of the construct of social cognition in a Latinx sample. Conceptually, the study adopted the influential ECLECTIC framework focusing on cultural validity of key contextual and measurement variables in Latinx social cognition across both performance-based and self-report indexes. Eighty-two college students who self-identified as Latinx completed multiple, cross-modal performance-based measures of social perception and mental state decoding, specifically the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test (RMET; Baron-Cohen, Jolliffe, Mortimore, & Robinson, 1997), the Multiracial Emotion Identification Task (MRID; Dodell-Feddell et al., 2020) and the multimodal (speech-only/speech-video) stimuli set from the Ryerson Audio—Visual Database of Emotional Speech and Song (RAVDESS; Livingstone & Russo, 2018). In addition, participants also completed multiple self-report measures of cultural intelligence (Ang et al., 2007) acculturation (Zea, Asner-Self, Birman, & Buki, 2003) acculturative stress (MASI; Rodriguez et al., 2002), ethnic identity (Phinney & Ong, 2007), and perceived social connectedness (Lee & Robbins, 1998). We hypothesized that the extent to which these performance-based and self-report measures correlate would provide evidence for cultural validity of the construct of social cognition in Latinx students.

The results showed evidence of strong correlations within each of these measurement domains, performance-based and self-report. In particular, performance-based measures showed a consistent pattern of scores across these tasks, offering support for their use as indexes of social cognition in Latinx students. Similarly, self-report measures revealed significant associations among cultural intelligence, social connectedness, ethnic identity and acculturation. These correlational findings pointed to key contributions of social connectedness and ethnic identity to higher levels of cultural intelligence and acculturation. However, notwithstanding evidence of strong associations within each of these measurement domains, the data failed to show the hypothesized consistent pattern of correlations linking social cognitive performance with the self-report measures of social and cultural variables. As such, the findings did not provide strong support for the cultural validity of the social cognitive measures used in this study of Latinx students. In fact, among the performance-based tasks, only the RMET correlated with self-report measures of acculturation and cultural intelligence. That is, cross-correlations between acculturation and performance-based social cognition measures were only partly established with the RMET but not with other measures of social cognition. Specifically, acculturation driven by general language competence had the strongest association with the RMET performance. The RMET also correlated positively with metacognitive cultural intelligence, highlighting the key effect of metacognition on RMET performance along with language competence.

For the self-report measures, the data showed that cultural intelligence was positively correlated with higher levels of acculturation related specifically to heritage language and heritage cultural competence. Importantly, cultural intelligence in our sample did not correlate with aspects of acculturation related to English language competence or US cultural competence. Further analysis revealed that both meta-cognitive cultural intelligence and social connectedness contributed significantly to reduced levels of acculturative stress.

Moreover, regression analyses revealed a particularly strong contribution for social connectedness in comparison to metacognitive cultural intelligence in lower levels of acculturative stress for Latinx students in our sample. Finally, our data also suggested that heightened acculturative stress in our sample was contingent upon the student’s Latino/a identity, confirming prior research pointing to the benefits of holding a bicultural identity as a buffer against stress above and beyond social cognitive abilities and related cultural intelligence skills.

Taken together, the findings of the current study may contribute to further understanding of the cultural validity of the construct of social cognition in Latinx college students. In so doing, the current study provides a cultural framework to examine multiple relevant domains, with the ultimate goal of developing a better understanding of the ways in which the measurement of social cognition are affected by sociodemographic and cultural variables, and how these interacting factors may impact Latinx college students’ subjective sense of connectedness in college.


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Available for download on Friday, September 01, 2023