Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Joan C. Borod

Subject Categories

Clinical Psychology | Psychology


Age; Emotion; Ethnicity; Gender; In-Group Advantage; Perception


The ability to perceive emotions in others is critical to successful social interaction. While much research has been conducted on some of the factors affecting emotion perception, other areas have received relatively little attention and, thus, are not well understood. There is growing evidence to suggest that various demographic factors, as well as their interactions, impact the accuracy of emotion perception. The impact of these factors seems to vary as a function of the particular channel (e.g., facial, prosodic, and lexical) through which emotions are perceived and may even be influenced by the presence of an 'in-group advantage' (IGA; Elfenbein & Ambady, 2002) with respect to demographic groups.

The main purpose of the current study was to further investigate the characteristics of the New York Emotion Battery (NYEB; Borod, Welkowitz, & Obler, 1992) and, in particular, to investigate the IGA for the demographic factors of age and gender, as well as to examine differences among groups based on ethnicity and language background, on three channels of emotion perception (facial, prosodic/intonational, and lexical/verbal) using measures from the NYEB. Using a diverse sample of 124 healthy right-handed (age range: 21-88; 56% women; 54% Caucasian; 55% native English-speaking) adults, we examined the presence of: (1) ethnic group differences on the facial and prosodic emotion perception tasks, (2) an IGA for age using the facial and prosodic emotion perception tasks, (3) an IGA for gender using the facial and prosodic emotion perception tasks, and (4) differences among groups based on language background using the prosodic and lexical emotion perception tasks. Additionally, specific emotions (e.g., happiness, sadness, and anger) were examined to determine if the existence of an IGA varies as a function of emotion type.

Results provided no support overall for an IGA based on gender or age, nor were there differences among groups on the basis of ethnicity or language background for any of the emotion perception tasks examined. Further, examination of specific emotions revealed that each group examined for each IGA comparison performed remarkably similar to one another, further supporting the conclusion that there is no IGA present in our dataset. There are a number of reasons why we may not have found evidence for an IGA for any of the demographic characteristics examined, despite reports in the literature of an IGA for each demographic factor examined. Methodological differences among studies are discussed to explain this discrepancy. The results are further discussed in light of the dialect theory, which is best supported by our results.

Overall, this study provides important information about the characteristics of the NYEB as they relate to the interaction between the demographic characteristics of the expresser of an emotion and the demographic characteristics of the perceiver of an emotion. Importantly, our study suggests that there are few such interactions and that, as a result, these emotion perception tasks are relatively unbiased and can be implemented for use across a demographically diverse sample. Further, our results suggest that emotion perception is, in general, universal when examined within a multicultural society and is relatively resistant to the factors that have been shown to produce an IGA in previous research. Finally, this study brings the NYEB one step closer to preparation for implementation as a much needed clinical instrument for clinical and research neuropsychologists.