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Psychol Sci. 2017 Dec;28(12):1796-1806. doi: 10.1177/0956797617722551. Epub 2017 Nov 6.

Contagious Anxiety: Anxious European Americans Can Transmit Their Physiological Reactivity to African Americans.

Author information

1
1 Department of Psychology, New York University.
2
2 David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles.
3
3 Department of Psychology, University of Toronto.
4
4 Department of Psychology, University of California, Santa Barbara.
5
5 Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco.

Abstract

During interracial encounters, well-intentioned European Americans sometimes engage in subtle displays of anxiety, which can be interpreted as signs of racial bias by African American partners. In the present research, same-race and cross-race stranger dyads ( N = 123) engaged in getting-acquainted tasks, during which measures of sympathetic nervous system responses (preejection period, PEP) and heart rate variability were continuously collected. PEP scores showed that African American partners had stronger physiological linkage to European American partners who evidenced greater anxiety-greater cortisol reactivity, behavioral tension, and self-reported discomfort-which suggests greater physiological responsiveness to momentary changes in partners' affective states when those partners were anxious. European Americans showed physiological linkage to African American and European American partners, but linkage did not vary as a function of their partner's anxiety. Using physiological linkage offers a novel approach to understanding how affective responses unfold during dynamic intergroup interactions.

KEYWORDS:

dyadic interaction; interracial anxiety; open data; physiological linkage

PMID:
29106801
PMCID:
PMC6052980
[Available on 2018-11-06]
DOI:
10.1177/0956797617722551
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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