October 2020
Volume 20, Issue 11
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   October 2020
Black is angry, White is scared: Evaluation of pain expressions in White and Black faces
Author Affiliations
  • Francis Gingras
    Université du Québec à Montréal
    Université du Québec en Outaouais
  • Andréa Deschênes
    Université du Québec en Outaouais
  • Daniel Fiset
    Université du Québec en Outaouais
  • Stéphanie Cormier
    Université du Québec en Outaouais
  • Hélène Forget
    Université du Québec en Outaouais
  • Marie-Pier Plouffe-Demers
    Université du Québec à Montréal
    Université du Québec en Outaouais
  • Caroline Blais
    Université du Québec en Outaouais
Journal of Vision October 2020, Vol.20, 1442. doi:https://doi.org/10.1167/jov.20.11.1442
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      Francis Gingras, Andréa Deschênes, Daniel Fiset, Stéphanie Cormier, Hélène Forget, Marie-Pier Plouffe-Demers, Caroline Blais; Black is angry, White is scared: Evaluation of pain expressions in White and Black faces. Journal of Vision 2020;20(11):1442. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/jov.20.11.1442.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Abstract

Detecting pain in others is a social skill of utmost importance (Williams, 2002). In countries where the racial majority is of White-European descent, pain experienced by Black individuals is underestimated. This tendency may in part take root in perceptual processes involved in pain facial expression recognition (Mende-Siedlecki et al., 2019). In the present study, we verified how people represent the appearance of pain expressions in Black and White faces. We extracted the mental representations of 30 White-Canadian and 30 Black-African participants using Reverse Correlation (Mangini & Biederman). Participants rated perceived pain in White and Black faces embedded in white sinusoidal noise. The average mental representations obtained in each ethnic group with each face ethnicity were then rated by independent participants on the degree to which they expressed five basic emotions and pain. Two main results were obtained. First, the overall emotional intensity of the mental representations extracted in Black-African participants was lower than the one of White-Canadians (F(1, 52)=5.02, p=.03). Second, the mental representation of pain, when expressed in a Black face, was perceived as less in pain (t(54)=8.3, p<.001) and more angry (t(54)=-3.6, p=.001) than when expressed in a White face. Moreover, when pain was expressed in a White face, it was perceived as more sad (t(53)=2.4, p=.02) and scared (t(54)=3.4, p=.001). These results suggest that at least two perceptual factors may be linked with the underestimation, by White individuals, of the pain experienced by Black individuals. First, White-Canadians expect pain expressions to be more intense than Black-Africans. These higher expectations may lead them to erroneously assume that pain experienced by Black individuals is of lower intensity. Second, while pain expressions in White faces include other emotions associated with approachability, pain expression in Black faces appear angrier, an emotion that may discourage helping behavior.

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