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Yarrow C. Dunham, Mahzarin R. Banaji; The “angry = black” effect across the lifespan. Journal of Vision 2006;6(6):280. doi: 10.1167/6.6.280.
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Much social information is derived from facial displays of emotion, sometimes in surprising ways. For example, Hugenberg & Bodenhausen (2004) reported that racially-ambiguous angry faces were more likely to be classified as racially “Black”, while the same faces were more likely to be classified as “White” when presented in a happy expression. Thus a negative emotion (anger) is associated more strongly with Black than White - the very same face is perceived to be Black when the face displays anger and White when the face displays a smile.
An advantage of this simple classification procedure is that it can be used to test the strength of the angry=black effect with young children. We tested 145 non-Black children (ages 3 to 13) and 60 adults on this ambiguous face classification task, thus beginning with the earliest ages children can successfully perform racial classifications. Remarkably, the angry = Black effect was present in the youngest children tested and the magnitude of the effect remained invariant into adulthood. However, other processes related to racial classification did show age related change. Both the tendency to exclude ambiguous faces from the ingroup (ingroup overexclusion) and the use of facial hue as a cue to race category became more pronounced with age.
Attributes of good and bad begin to affect perception of social groups very early in childhood (even in children with little direct contact with the outgroup). Future work will examine whether this effect is specific to Angry=Black or is more generally Angry=Outgroup.
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