Skip to main content


Asian American Stereotypes

By News

Two instances of stereotypes of Asian Americans have recently surfaced in the media. One involved media coverage of the book, Battle hymn of the tiger mother by Yale Law School Professor Amy Chua. The media coverage of Chua’s book focused on Chinese American parents who are strict, critical, and emphasize their children’s academic success. A Wall Street Journal essay by Chua on the book is entitled, “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior”.

The second stereotype involved the exclusion of Asian Americans by the National Research Council (NRC) in their rankings of the diversity of doctoral programs. Non-Asian ethnic minority students, women, and international faculty and students were included in the rankings. The implication is that the achievements and characteristics of Asian Americans are on par with those of European Americans and for this reason, Asian Americans do not bring diversity to doctoral programs.

These instances that highlight academic success are stereotypic because not all Asian Americans fit these stereotypes. However, it could be argued in both cases that the stereotypes are positive and not harmful. Academic success, whether it be among children or among students and faculty in doctoral programs, is laudable. Nevertheless, harsh parenting is not uniformly effective, and may create undue pressure and have harmful psychological consequences. A harmful effect of the apparent success of Asian Americans in higher education is invisibility in the NRC data. However, many Asian Americans have unique cultures and experiences that enhance the diversity of institutions as much as the cultures and experiences of any other minority group.

Seemingly positive stereotypes of Asian Americans as academically successful also have not resulted in acceptance into mainstream American society. Research by psychologists Thierry Devos and Mahzarin Banaji suggests that Asian Americans are viewed as less American than members of other ethnic groups in the U.S. Academic success does not immunize Asian Americans from the discrimination that targets all ethnic minority groups in the U.S. Discrimination toward Asian Americans ranges from microaggressions such as the question “where are you from?” to institutional discrimination, such as systematic exclusion from leadership positions based on perceptions of culturally-based personality characteristics of inscrutability and passivity. Moreover, Asian American academic success may be perceived as threatening and some would contend that Asian Americans should not receive special attention because this would constitute an unfair advantage.

Stereotypes of any group are inherently inaccurate because they try to shoehorn all members of the group being stereotyped into a single conception while ignoring the wide diversity within the group.  Moreover, some stereotypes are simply wrong and are perpetuated by the majority group in order to bias perception of the targeted group. Asians in the U.S. are from at least 30 different national and cultural backgrounds and there also is much individual diversity within any Asian American group. There certainly are unique, positive characteristics of Asian American cultures that may enhance well-being, including academic achievement. However, an exclusive focus on the academic achievements of Asian Americans has rendered them invisible at times, threatening at other times, and overlooks their needs as a minority group. Indeed, there are many Asian Americans that fit the exact opposite of the academic success stereotype, with many struggling academically and living in poverty. The Asian American Psychological Association encourages a balanced consideration of both the strengths and needs of the over 15 million diverse people of Asian ancestry in the U.S.

Shooting at The Sikh Temple in Wisconsin

By News, Press Release

Minneapolis – The Asian American Psychological Association joins with the rest of the nation in mourning the tragic loss of the members at the Sikh Temple, Oak Creek, Wisconsin. In particular, we extend our heartfelt condolences to the victims, families and friends of those who have suffered a personal loss. As psychologists and counselors, we understand the complexities of this incident and the manifold needs and emotions that are now pulling at us as individuals, as a community, and as a nation.

First and foremost among these, are the needs of those individuals who have been directly affected by this tragedy. The Division on South Asian Americans (DoSAA), part of the AAPA strives to be a driving force in a community action among South Asian mental health providers and those interested in South Asian mental health. If you are experiencing distress in reaction to this event or have questions about mental health and wellness in response to trauma and crisis, please do not hesitate to call us at either or for information, support, and referral for services.

DoSAA has compiled a list of mental health resources in the Wisconsin community:

Other national resources include Counselors Helping (South) Asian/Indians (CHAI.) CHAI is dedicated to providing outreach, referral and educational services to the South Asian community on issues related to mental health and wellness, for more assistance contact 443-615-1355. The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) also has a National Helpline available at 1-800-950-NAMI.

Please feel free to contact either the AAPA or DoSAA team for more assistance and support.

As we learn more facts about this incident, we also wish to acknowledge at this time that the Sikh community in the US has had to endure a unique vulnerability in the years since 9/11, as anti-Muslim sentiments have often been directed against members of a community who have often been mistaken for Muslim.  As an association dedicated to the psychological well-being of Asian Americans, we take a special interest in how such sentiments affect Sikh Americans as we care about the enormous psychological burden that all groups, both non-Muslims and Muslims, must bear when prejudice is directed at them.

Statement by President Obama on the Shooting in Wisconsin:

Michelle and I were deeply saddened to learn of the shooting that tragically took so many lives in Wisconsin. At this difficult time, the people of Oak Creek must know that the American people have them in our thoughts and prayers, and our hearts go out to the families and friends of those who were killed and wounded. My Administration will provide whatever support is necessary to the officials who are responding to this tragic shooting and moving forward with an investigation. As we mourn this loss which took place at a house of worship, we are reminded how much our country has been enriched by Sikhs, who are a part of our broader American family”

The  Asian American Psychological Association is the primary, national organization dedicated to the advancement of the psychological well-being of Asian Americans

For PDF version click here.

Member Spotlight: Dr. Meifen Wei, PhD

By Member Spotlight

meifen-wei-pictureDr. Meifen Wei, PhD is the co-recipient of the 2009 AAPA Early Career Award. Dr. Wei is an Associate Professor at Iowa State University. Dr. Wei is the most frequently published author in Journal of Counseling Psychology in a decade and 4th in two decades. In addition, such a publication record would have been exceptional even for veteran professors, but Dr. Wei just began her academic position in 2002. Dr. Wei contributes to the welfare of Asian Americans on two fronts: focusing on acculturative stress and minority stress among Asian Americans and elucidating the process of coping with discrimination on Asian Americans. Dr. Wei has been a distinguished exemplar of a Scientist-Practitioner. Her practice spans 8 years of counseling Taiwanese students in Taiwan and 3 years of specialty service to Asian Americans in USA. She has served as a member in the Editorial Board of Journal of Counseling Psychology, The Counseling Psychologist, and Chinese Journal of Guidance and Counseling (an Asian international journal). -Dr. Ruth Chao, Nominator