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In a new study, AICE researcher Agneta Fischer together with Pum Kommattam and Kai Jonas test the hypothesis that individuals perceive facial expressions of emotions in ethnic outgroup members as less intense than those of ingroup members’ expressions.

The quality of interactions between individuals from different ethnic groups partly depends on how emotions of individual ethnic group members are interpreted. Previous research has found that facial expressions of emotions of a different ethnic group are recognized less accurately than facial expressions of members of the same ethnic group.

In a new study, Pum Kommattam, Kai Jonas, and Agneta Fischer focus on a bias in intensity perception and test the hypothesis that individuals perceive facial expressions of emotions in ethnic outgroup members as less intense than those of ingroup members’ expressions. In addition to nine previously conducted and reported studies (focussing only on embarrassment, Kommattam, Jonas, & Fischer, 2017, Studies 1 - 9), they conducted a series of three additional studies including white Dutch, U.S., and U.K. participants (N total = 3201) judging the intensity of nine different emotions displayed by different ethnic group members.

A random effects model meta-analysis shows that individuals perceive less intense emotions in ethnic outgroup members than in ethnic ingroup members (d = .33 [0.08 – 0.59], (r = .16)). This intensity bias in interethnic emotion perception points to a systematic downplaying of the intensity of outgroup emotions.