Date of Degree

2-2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Psychology

Advisor

Joan C. Borod

Committee Members

Laura Rabin

Justin Storbeck

Claudia Brumbaugh

Yvette Caro

Subject Categories

Psychology

Abstract

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.

Included in

Psychology Commons

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