September 2021
Volume 21, Issue 9
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2021
Perceptual factors underlie the underestimation bias in pain perception of black and white faces
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Marie-Pier Plouffe-Demers
    Université du Québec à Montréal
    Université du Québec en Outaouais
  • Valérie Plouffe
    Université du Québec en Outaouais
  • Daniel Fiset
    Université du Québec en Outaouais
  • Stéphanie Cormier
    Université du Québec en Outaouais
  • Caroline Blais
    Université du Québec en Outaouais
  • Footnotes
    Acknowledgements  This work was supported by a grant and scholarships from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and a Canada Research Chair in Cognitive and Social Vision.
Journal of Vision September 2021, Vol.21, 2703. doi:
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      Marie-Pier Plouffe-Demers, Valérie Plouffe, Daniel Fiset, Stéphanie Cormier, Caroline Blais; Perceptual factors underlie the underestimation bias in pain perception of black and white faces. Journal of Vision 2021;21(9):2703.

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

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Communication of pain has been tied to the evolution of the human race, as efficient communication may increase chances of survival. Interestingly, underestimation biases in pain judgments are often observed and are even worse for ethnic/racial minority groups (Cintron & Morrison, 2006). It has been suggested that this form of racial biases in pain recognition could be due to the perceptual processes underlying the detection of the facial expression of pain (Mende-Siedlecki et al., 2019). However, the pain of others must not only be detected, but also evaluated in terms of intensity for one to exhibit the appropriate behavior. This study compared the pain intensity perceived in ethnic ingroup (white) versus outgroup (black) faces using the method of serial reproduction, known as “TeleFace” (Uddenberg & Scholl, 2018). 20 chains of 10 Caucasian participants were created (100 men) and one by one, 4 face avatars (2 gender x 2 ethnicity) displaying a medium intensity of pain (60%) were briefly presented to the first participant of each chain. The participant reproduced the perceived intensity using a slider along continuums of the same faces presenting different levels of pain intensity (from 0% to 100%). Its response was then used as the pain intensity for the next participant and so on down the line in each TeleFace chain. Results show that chains generally tend to converge toward a lower level of pain for black faces in comparison to white faces. Analysis on the intensity selected by the last participant of each chain revealed a significant underestimation of pain in black faces (M=34.10%, SD=12.68%) in comparison to white faces (M=44.03%, SD=11.49%) [t(19) = 2.52, p=.02, d=0.82 ]. These results suggest that viewers are influenced by face ethnicity when evaluating the intensity of the facial expression of pain in others.


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