Do beliefs about emotions and racial biases predict attention for angry and angry African-American faces?

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Title: Do beliefs about emotions and racial biases predict attention for angry and angry African-American faces?
Author: Dennis, Paul Anthony
Advisors: Amy Halberstadt, Committee Chair
Tom Hess, Committee Member
Doug Gillan, Committee Member
Abstract: Broadly speaking, attitudes and beliefs shape how we perceive the world around us (Balcetis & Dunning, 2007; Fazio, Chen, McDonel, & Sherman, 1982; Riskind, Moore, & Bowley, 1995; Schnall, Harber, Stefanucci, & Proffitt, 2008). For instance, people generally devote more attention to objects and events about which they feel strongly than to objects and events about which they do not (Roskos-Ewoldsen & Fazio, 1992). This observation was tested as it relates to people’s beliefs about negative emotions and their racial bias against African Americans. Specifically, people who believe that negative emotions are dangerous were hypothesized to pay greater attention to negative emotional expressions (as opposed to positive emotional expressions) than people who did not have strong beliefs about the danger of negative emotions. People who are biased against African Americans were hypothesized to pay greater attention to angry African Americans (as opposed to angry European Americans) than people who are not strongly biased against African Americans. To test these hypotheses, 138 college students participated in a dot-probe task, which measured the degree to which participants fixed their attention on angry vs. happy faces and angry African- American vs. angry European-American faces. Contrary to my prediction, participants with strong beliefs about the danger of negative emotions focused greater attention on happy vs. angry faces than did participants with weak beliefs about the danger of negative emotions, suggesting that participants with strong beliefs focused their attention away from angry faces in avoidance of those faces. There were no significant disparities in attention to angry African-American vs. angry European-American faces as a function of racial bias.
Date: 2009-11-30
Degree: MS
Discipline: Psychology
URI: http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/resolver/1840.16/1935


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