Challenge and Threat During Social Interactions with White and Black Men

Published in: Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, v. 28, no. 7, July 2002, p. 939-952

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2001

by Wendy Berry Mendes, Jim Blascovich, Brian Lickel, Sarah B. Hunter

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This research examined the extent to which minority or devalued group members engendered threat reactions from interaction partners. Participants' cardiovascular responses marking challenge and threat were obtained during social interactions with White or Black confederates who described their background as either socioeconomically advantaged or disadvantaged. Main effects for race and status were found. Men interacting with Black or disadvantaged confederates, participants exhibited cardiovascular threat responses, whereas participants interacting with White or advantaged confederates primarily exhibited cardiovascular challenge responses. Consistent with cardiovascular responses, participants paired with White partners performed better during a cooperative task than participants paired with Black partners. In contrast to the physiological and behavioral indicators, self-reports indicated greater liking and more agreement with positive statements for Black partners than White partners. These findings demonstrate the value of multiple, and less consciously controlled measures for the study of intergroup relations.

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