Dr. Daniel Tranel
Participation year
Project title

Are There Racial Differences Between Blacks and Whites in their Experience and Expression of Emotion?


Emotion, feelings and mood are fundamental factors driving human behavior. Very little is known about whether there are racial differences in response to film-induced emotional stimuli and virtually nothing is known about their psychophysiological manifestations. One's threshold for stress is due in large part to how they process emotion. There are ethnic differences in cardiovascular arousal during stressful situations. In comparison to Caucasians, African Americans encounter higher resting levels of blood pressure, blood pressure reactivity, and mortality from hypertension. The goal of this project is to determine whether whites and blacks differ in their experience and expression of emotion. Subjects will be matched on age, IQ and education level, followed by a baseline mood measure. One hundred healthy whites (M=50, F=50), and one hundred healthy blacks (M=50, F=50) will be tested on how their mood fluctuates through self-report mood measures following amusing, sad, disgusting and neutral emotion-laden film clips. In addition, EKG, skin conductance and blood pressure will be recorded. We hypothesize that blacks during film viewing will self-report and express greater amusement than whites while whites will self-report and express greater sadness than blacks. Disgust will be self-reported and expressed equally by black and white participants. The findings from the proposed study may help to improve current understanding of the factors influencing emotional experience and expression as well as yield insights into the large disparity in cardiovascular disease between African Americans and Caucasians.

North Carolina @ Charlotte