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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2008 Feb;94(2):278-91. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.94.2.278.

How attributional ambiguity shapes physiological and emotional responses to social rejection and acceptance.

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Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.


The authors examined White and Black participants' emotional, physiological, and behavioral responses to same-race or different-race evaluators, following rejecting social feedback or accepting social feedback. As expected, in ingroup interactions, the authors observed deleterious responses to social rejection and benign responses to social acceptance. Deleterious responses included cardiovascular (CV) reactivity consistent with threat states and poorer performance, whereas benign responses included CV reactivity consistent with challenge states and better performance. In intergroup interactions, however, a more complex pattern of responses emerged. Social rejection from different-race evaluators engendered more anger and activational responses, regardless of participants' race. In contrast, social acceptance produced an asymmetrical race pattern--White participants responded more positively than did Black participants. The latter appeared vigilant and exhibited threat responses. Discussion centers on implications for attributional ambiguity theory and potential pathways from discrimination to health outcomes.

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