Study on Gender and Racial Differences in Emotional Contagion

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08/02/20 Psychology Reference this

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When You’re Smiling, Does the Whole World Smile with You?

Abstract

In the current study, a group of participants were tested on their level of emotional contagion depending on the confederates’ gender and race. The confederates each smiled at 100 (50 female) participants and recorded the response of either smiled back or did not smile back. The number of smiles received from the participants is defined as their level of emotional contagion. As predicated, females were more susceptible to emotional contagion than males. It is also important to note that the confederates’ gender and race had a significant effect on the participant responses.

When You’re Smiling, Does the Whole World Smile with You? A Study on Gender and Racial Differences in Emotional Contagion

 In a world of discontinuous human contact, the vanishing art of conversation, and the increase of social media as a replacement for communication; it can be quite refreshing to smile at a passerby and receive a smile in return. Is this feeling of human interaction refreshed for everyone though? Or are there certain demographics needed in order to acquire a free smile? In the current study, the effect of one’s demographics will be investigated to see if it is related to emotional contagion. Emotional contagion is “the tendency to automatically mimic and synchronize expressions, vocalizations, postures, and movements with those of another person’s and, consequently, to converge emotionally.” (Hatfield, Cacioppo, & Rapson, 1993, p. 96)

 In a study to test emotional contagion in discrete and time moderated intervals, participants were measured on their levels of emotional contagion. One of the tests showed the participants very discrete emotional faces, one test showed them many different emotional states on faces, some were shown for 1 second and some were shown for 5 seconds. In all scenarios, the participants all showed high levels of emotional contagion even when only viewing the face for 1 second. The study concluded that even when a participant is shown a face that barely has any emotion showing for 1 second, they will still experience emotional contagion (Lishner, Cooter, & Zald, 2008).  It is important to note that emotional contagion can occur in such a short time frame because the current study will use similar time frames to trigger emotional contagion in the participants.

 In a study conducted to test emotional contagion in men and women, results show that women experience more emotional contagion than men. In the study, Doherty, Orimoto, Singelis, and Hatfield (1995) tested the level of emotional contagion in a group of men and women with three different occupations. The occupations were student, physician, and Marine. These results showed that women, even with an occupation as a Marine, experienced more emotional contagion than men. Although the study shows that women are more susceptible than men when it comes to emotional contagion; it does not test if women can cause emotional contagion more than men. The current study will test to see if men can cause more emotional contagion than women.

 In a study to test if heterosexual males and females found same-sex or opposite-sex faces more rewarding, results showed that in both males and females, both found the opposite-sex’s face more rewarding. Spreckelmeyer, Rademacher, Paulus, and Gründer (2013) showed each gender a smiling face of the same sex and then the opposite sex and asked them to rate how rewarded they felt after seeing the face. Although both genders felt more rewarded after seeing the opposite sex’s face, the women who viewed the smiling male had a higher score of feeling rewarded than did the men who reacted to the smiling woman’s face. This supports the theory that a heterosexual is more likely to feel rewarded when they are smiled at by the opposite sex. This study supports two ideas in the current study: one is that women are more likely than men to experience emotional contagion (smile back) and two is that women are more likely to smile back at the opposite sex which is why men are predicted to receive more smiles.

 In another study the level of threat one felt after viewing pictures of a Caucasian male versus an African American male was measured. Shapiro, Ackerman, Neuberg, Maner, Becker, and Kenrick (2009) established an anchor face (first face shown in a pair) and a target face (second face shown in the pair). The participants were tested on how threatened they felt by the target face after being paired with an angry face and then how they felt the target face was paired with a neutral face. The threat level felt of the neutral white male face followed by another neutral white male face was much higher than the angry white male face followed by a neutral white male face. So the angry to neutral face was less threatening than the neutral to neutral in the white male faces. When it came to the black male faces with the same scenario, the level of threat was the same on both target faces. The participants felt the same level of threat for both black faces whereas there was a decreased level of threat felt for one of the white faces. It is also important to note that in the study the participants were all Caucasian, this means that Caucasians perceive male Caucasians as less threatening than African American males even if they are both smiling. This study supports the idea that race has an effect on emotional contagion.

 In the current study, it is hypothesized that participants who receive smiles from a Caucasian man will experience more emotional contagion than the participants who receive smiles from a Caucasian woman, an African American woman, and an African American man.

Method

Participants

 Four hundred people (50% female) were smiled at in a shopping setting between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. on a Saturday. Each participant was randomly selected by the confederate and their smiles (emotional contagion) were measured.

Materials

 Two Caucasian people (50% female) and two African American people (50% female), ages range 23 to 32 years old with a mean age of 28.5 (SD = 3.9), who volunteered for this study. Each confederate smiled at 100 people (50% female) who were not aware of this current study. A writing utensil and one “Smiling Tally Sheet” that was written on three 8.5 by 11 inch white papers (See Appendix A). The paper included a place for the confederate to write their assigned number, their race, their gender, the time of the experiment and the location. The paper also included a table with four columns titled “Number,” “Gender,” “Race,” and “Smiled.” The table also consisted of one hundred rows; the rows under the number column are number 1 through 100. The rows under the ender column had an “M” and an “F” where the confederate checked the participants’ gender. Under race the confederate checked “C” for Caucasian, “AA” for African American or “O” for other to determine the participant’s race. Under the smiled column the confederate checked “Y” for yes and “N” for no depending on the reaction of the participant.

Procedure 

 The setting was a shopping area between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. on a Saturday. The researcher told each confederates to go to the shopping area and find a place to sit or stand. They were instructed to smile at 50 males and 50 females that walk by them. The confederates were told to record every response they received along with the other demographic information needed on the tally sheet. The confederates were told what the researcher considered a smile and that they must have been noticed by the participants by for the response to count.

 The researcher measured the amount of smiles that each confederate received and compared it to the confederate’s race and gender. The number of smiles received back was the value of emotional contagion each confederate was able to produce in the participants.

Results

 To test if emotional contagion is affected by a person’s race and gender, a logistical regression test was conducted. The independent variables are gender with the levels of male and female and race with the levels of Caucasian and African America. The dependent variable is the amount of emotional contagion a group experiences. The operational definition of amount of emotional contagion (whether the participant smiles or not) is the number of smiles that a confederate receives from a randomly selected group of 100 respondents (50 females) after smiling at each respondent. A smile is defined as an upward curvature of the lips. The results of the study showed that of the participants who smiled back, 60.3% were female participants (M=1.53, SD = .5), the confederate gender who received the most smiles back were females (M=1.60, SD=.49), and the confederate race that received the most smiles was African American with 55.4% of the smiles (M=1.45, SD=.498). The results of the logistical regression show that the model fit -2 log likelihood was 513.068.

Discussion

 Although the hypothesis was not confirmed, there were some significant relationships between gender and emotional contagion as well as race and emotional contagion. As predicted, females reported a higher level of emotional contagion than did males. Race also had a significant effect on smiles received and smiles given, more participants smiled at African American confederates but 77% of those smiles were from African American participants. Gender also had a significant effect on emotional contagion, 71% of the male participants smiled back at female confederates and 68% of female participants smiled back at the male confederates. This shows that people are more likely to smile at the opposite sex. Overall the current study supported the research and confirms that race and gender have significant effects on emotional contagion.

Limitations

 Some limitations of this study were that there was no way to know the participants’ “true” race; this was the perception of the confederate. Also there is no way for the confederates to know the sexual orientation of all of the participants which might affect the results of the opposite sex experiencing more pleasure from the other opposite sex’s face. Another limitation is the small amount of participants and that there was a limit on geographic locations.

 Future goals for this study would be to find more participants and more confederates. Better results could be found by having a controlled area or region of the country as well as eventually testing other geographical locations. A trained group of confederates would also enhance this study. The overall findings of this study showed that it does matter what your gender and race are when it comes to emotional contagion. It is fascinating that something as small and automatic as a smile might actually have a large amount of bias behind it.

References

  • Doherty, R., Orimoto, L., Singelis, T. M., & Hatfield, E. (1995). Emotional contagion: Gender and occupational differences. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 19(3), 355-371.
  • Hatfield, E., Cacioppo, J. T., & Rapson, R. L. (1993). Emotional contagion. Current Directions In Psychological Science, 2(3), 96-99.
  • Lishner, D. A., Cooter, A. B., & Zald, D. H. (2008). Rapid emotional contagion and expressive               congruence under strong test conditions. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 32(4), 225-239.
  • Shapiro, J. R., Ackerman, J. M., Neuberg, S. L., Maner, J. K., Becker, D., & Kenrick, D. T. (2009). Following in the wake of anger: When not discriminating is discriminating. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35(10), 1356-1367.
  • Spreckelmeyer, K. N., Rademacher, L., Paulus, F. M., & Gründer, G. (2013). Neural activation               during anticipation of opposite-sex and same-sex faces in heterosexual men and women. Neuroimage, 66223-231.

 Appendix A

Confederate  #____

Race____________

Gender__________

Time_____________

Location___________

Number

Gender

Race

Smiled

1

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

2

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

3

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

4

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

5

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

6

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

7

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

8

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

9

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

10

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

11

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

12

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

13

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

14

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

15

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

16

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

17

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

18

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

19

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

20

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

21

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

22

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

23

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

24

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

25

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

Number

Gender

Race

Smiled

26

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

27

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

28

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

29

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

30

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

31

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

32

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

33

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

34

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

35

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

36

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

37

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

38

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

39

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

40

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

41

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

42

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

43

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

44

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

45

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

46

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

47

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

48

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

49

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

50

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

51

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

52

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

53

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

54

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

55

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

56

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

57

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

58

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

59

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

60

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

61

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

62

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

63

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

64

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

65

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

Number

Gender

Race

Smiled

66

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

67

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

68

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

69

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

70

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

71

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

72

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

73

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

74

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

75

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

76

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

77

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

78

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

79

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

80

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

81

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

82

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

83

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

84

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

85

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

86

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

87

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

88

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

89

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

90

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

91

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

92

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

93

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

94

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

95

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

96

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

97

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

98

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

99

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

100

M____  F_____

C____ AA_____O___

Y____   N____

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