How white and black bodies are perceived depends on what emotion is expressed

Rebecca Watson, Beatrice de Gelder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Body language is a powerful indicator of others' emotions in social interactions, with positive signals triggering approach and negative ones retreat and defensiveness. Intergroup and interracial factors can influence these interactions, sometimes leading to aggressive or even violent behaviour. Despite its obvious social relevance however, the interaction between body expression and race remains unexplored, with explanations of the impact of race being almost exclusively based on the role of race in face recognition. In the current fMRI study we scanned white European participants while they viewed affective (angry and happy) body postures of both same race (white) and other race (black) individuals. To assess the difference between implicit and explicit recognition participants performed either an explicit emotion categorisation task, or an irrelevant shape judgement task. Brain activity was modulated by race in a number of brain regions across both tasks. Race-related activity appeared to be task- as well as emotion- specific. Overall, the other-race effects appeared to be driven by positive emotions, while same-race effects were observed for negative emotions. A race specific effect was also observed in right amygdala reflecting increased activation for explicit recognition of angry white body expressions. Overall, these results provide the first clear evidence that race influences affective body perception.

Original languageEnglish
Article number41349
Number of pages12
JournalScientific Reports
Volume7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jan 2017

Keywords

  • AMYGDALA ACTIVITY
  • INDIVIDUAL-DIFFERENCES
  • INTERGROUP CONFLICT
  • BODY EXPRESSIONS
  • NEURAL ACTIVITY
  • OTHER-RACE
  • OWN-RACE
  • PERCEPTION
  • EMPATHY
  • FACES

Cite this

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title = "How white and black bodies are perceived depends on what emotion is expressed",
abstract = "Body language is a powerful indicator of others' emotions in social interactions, with positive signals triggering approach and negative ones retreat and defensiveness. Intergroup and interracial factors can influence these interactions, sometimes leading to aggressive or even violent behaviour. Despite its obvious social relevance however, the interaction between body expression and race remains unexplored, with explanations of the impact of race being almost exclusively based on the role of race in face recognition. In the current fMRI study we scanned white European participants while they viewed affective (angry and happy) body postures of both same race (white) and other race (black) individuals. To assess the difference between implicit and explicit recognition participants performed either an explicit emotion categorisation task, or an irrelevant shape judgement task. Brain activity was modulated by race in a number of brain regions across both tasks. Race-related activity appeared to be task- as well as emotion- specific. Overall, the other-race effects appeared to be driven by positive emotions, while same-race effects were observed for negative emotions. A race specific effect was also observed in right amygdala reflecting increased activation for explicit recognition of angry white body expressions. Overall, these results provide the first clear evidence that race influences affective body perception.",
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How white and black bodies are perceived depends on what emotion is expressed. / Watson, Rebecca; de Gelder, Beatrice.

In: Scientific Reports, Vol. 7, 41349, 27.01.2017.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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