Date of Degree


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Degree Name





Joan C. Borod

Committee Members

Laura Rabin

Justin Storbeck

Claudia Brumbaugh

Yvette Caro

Subject Categories



The extent to which emotional recognition is universal or culturally determined has far-ranging implications for the success of cross-cultural communication. Although strong evidence supporting the universality of emotion recognition across differing cultures has accumulated, there is also mounting support for an in-group advantage (Elfenbein & Ambady, 2002a), defined as the ease by which individuals recognize emotions displayed by members of their in-group group compared to out-group members. Due to mixed results from studies focusing on ethnic groups residing within the same country, the current study investigated the in-group advantage among Black American (BAm), Chinese American (CAm), and White American (WAm) individuals using a balanced design.

Participants were asked to produce angry, fearful, sad, neutral, and happy facial and prosodic expressions. Based on a validation process involving consensus raters, expressions produced by 62 posers, 18-35 years (21 BAm, 52% female; 20 CAm, 50% female; and 21 WAm, 52% female), were selected into the study. Finally, 137 judges, 18-39 years (46 BAm, 50% female, 45 CAm, 51% female, and 46 WAm, 50% female), were exposed to the expressions. The in-group advantage was investigated for emotion recognition accuracy, response time, emotion intensity ratings, and confidence ratings.

Results provided partial support for an in-group advantage in facial emotion recognition, which mainly occurred for Black American judges. There was no support for an in-group advantage for prosodic emotion recognition. However, for both channels, support was obtained for a minority out-group advantage, as Black American and Chinese American judges recognized White American expressions with higher accuracy than in-group expressions. Results from response time data, emotion intensity ratings, and confidence ratings neither supported an in-group nor an out-group advantage. These data suggested that the out-group advantage is not simply a function of differing task difficulty. Additionally, when scores from an empathy questionnaire were controlled for, the out-group advantage disappeared, suggesting the importance of empathy in cross-ethnic emotion recognition. Findings also demonstrated higher recognition rates and intensity ratings among women than men.

Overall, results revealed subtle differences in cross-ethnic emotion recognition among groups living together in a multi-cultural environment, which can impact the success of inter-group nonverbal communication.

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