Interractions Between Racial Groups Impaired by Anxiety

For some people, interacting with individuals from other races creates anxiety. This type of impairment can make it difficult for some people to engage in social situations. Increased levels of anxiety can cause an individual to inaccurately perceive the emotional expressions of those around them, resulting in misunderstandings and disagreements. This form of intergroup anxiety may also cause other negative outcomes, such as discrimination or bias. This bias is difficult to disengage once activated and can lead to negative responses and behaviors. To determine if social anxiety caused by interracial interactions can cause bias or discrimination, David M. Amodio of the Department of Psychology and Center for Neural Science at New York University conducted an experiment involving black and white participants.

Amodio enlisted 38 white college students for his study and assigned them to an interaction with either a black or white partner. The participants were evaluated by experimenters as they interacted with their partners and were assessed for levels of anxiety and racial bias. The study revealed that levels of intergroup anxiety were higher in the participants who knew they would be meeting with a black partner than in those meeting with a white partner. The interracial participants exhibited levels of racial bias, although implicitly not explicitly. However, they did not appear to stereotype their partners.

There was a direct relationship between anxiety and racial bias in the participants matched with black partners. Amodio believes these findings suggest that intergroup anxiety increases the likelihood of evaluative bias. In this study, the results clearly support that even though the bias was implicit. Amodio considers these findings significant as intergroup relations can be impacted in a variety of ways as the result of anxiety, and this demonstration of implicit racial bias is just one more way in which these relations can be impaired. He added, “This finding highlights the critical interactive effects of emotion and implicit processes and sheds new light on how implicit racial biases may operate in real-life intergroup situations.”

Amodio, D. M., Hamilton, H. K. (2012). Intergroup anxiety effects on implicit racial evaluation and stereotyping. Emotion. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0029016

Related articles:
Exploring the Effects of Anxiety
Social Anxiety Can Be a Hidden Problem in College
Factors Affecting Mental Health in Minority Populations

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  • Reena young

    Reena young

    July 24th, 2012 at 3:39 PM

    I don’t get it.
    here we are in 2012 and we are still allowing something so superficial as the color of one’s skin make us uncomfortable.
    Does it really matter what someone is on the outside when really all we should be paying attention to is the person that they are on the inside?
    I can’t say that I have never been biased against someone because of their race, I am sure that there have been times in my life when I have made those quick rushes to jusdgement.
    But I have grown up and matured, and you would think that others would learn to do the same.
    Apparently though this is still an issue, which scares me because it makes me feel like this might be something we will never be able to fully overcome.

  • melissa


    July 24th, 2012 at 4:55 PM

    Did you see equal amounts of anxiety between all races, or is it more prevalent in one over another?

  • Just in

    Just in

    July 24th, 2012 at 5:45 PM

    I have a friend who just couldnt get along with members of a different race no matter what it was for, be it sports,academics or even just in a group of friends.Later I found out the reason to be the neighborhood he grew up in and the places he had been had almost no diversity.

    Such people need to be sensitized and taught on a more psychological level as to how to deal with such situations, which I hope comes along real quick.

  • laken Y

    laken Y

    July 25th, 2012 at 4:25 AM

    Being biracial, I can see how straddling the fence can be hard for some people.

    You so badly want to fit in, but then you don’t really have a clear cut idea of where you do or can fit in.

    It has been hard when you are trying to identify yourself, but there feels like there is no box that you neatly fit into.

    So there is always a struggle there to find who you are and where you will be able to best make your mark and feel comfortable.

  • Colt


    July 25th, 2012 at 5:01 PM

    The issue of race is only as significant as you make it. For some people it is the only thing that matters and for others it isn’t such a big deal. But only by continuing to have these debates are we giving it the power to have this sort of control over us.

    Personally I really don’t think that it’s such a big deal to the younger generation, not in the way it used to be. There is so much more exposure to others ethnic groups everywhere you go that I just don’t think that young people give much creedence anymore to the old racial divides. That’s simply not something that impacts them too much.

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