Emotions carry information about our environment and therefore influence information processing. Happy moods, for instance, tell us that the situation is not threatening and - concerning information processing - that relying on general-knowledge-structures is sufficient (e.g. heuristic cues, stereotypes). Sad moods, however, tell us that there is a problem and - concerning information processing - that we need to use more systematic information processing in order to understand the problem. Applying these mechanisms to intergroup attitudes shows that the processes do not seem to be universal and that induced emotions only affect intergroup attitudes if they are relevant to stereotypes. According to research findings, generally, both disgust and anger increase intergroup bias. But, for instance, only disgust increases anti-homosexuality bias and only anger increases bias against Arabs. In other words, induced emotions only have an effect when the "informational value of the emotion" fits the stereotype.
Intergroup processes need to be differentiated. For instance, intergroup processes for gender groups differ from those for ethnic groups. So does the effect of anger. The authors of the study presented here predict that induced anger will increase ethnic but not gender intergroup bias since anger is associated with conflicts for resources, and "ethnic groups typically compete for resources, whereas gender groups typically engage in relations of positive interdependence". In addition, they predict that "this increased ethnic intergroup bias should only be observed among men because men show more groupbased reactions to intergroup conflict than women do."
First, intergroup attitudes were measured (one ethnic, one gender for men, one gender for women). Then, participants were randomly assigned to the anger condition (writing about anger life events) or the control condition (writing about a normal day in life).
The results of the study support the prediction that anger induction increases ethnic but not gender intergroup bias and only for men. These results highlight that gender groups differ on a crucial point from ethnic groups and "call for more attention to the effect of people’s gender in intergroup relations research."
- Kuppens, T., Pollet, T. V., Teixeira, C. P., Demoulin, S., Roberts, S. C. & Little, A. C. (2012) Emotions in context: Anger causes ethnic bias but not gender bias in men but not women. European Journal of Social Psychology, 42, 432-441
- all photographs by Willy Rizzo (1966), of Jane Fonda via and of Géorgia Quental via and of Virna Lisi via
This (slightly modified) posting was originally published on Science on Google+ on 10th of October 2013