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Black Children are Perceived as Angry Even When They are NOT, and More So with Age

Fri, March 22, 7:45 to 9:15am, Baltimore Convention Center, Floor: Level 1, Exhibit Hall B

Integrative Statement

Research with both computerized faces of men, and dynamic expressions of real men and women reveal a racialized phenomenon in emotion recognition; Black men and women are seen by others as angry, even when they are not (Halberstadt et al., 2018; Hugenberg, 2005; Hugenberg & Bodenhausen, 2004; Kang & Chasteen, 2009). Halberstadt et al. (2018) have named this phenomenon “anger bias.” It is not clear yet when Black children begin to experience others’ anger bias, although we know that black children are estimated to be older and less innocent than their white counterparts of the same age at ages as young as age 9 (Goff et al., 2014). Thus, our goal was to assess whether racialized anger bias occurs for children as young as 10 years of age, and whether it is increasingly worse for older children. We hypothesized that participants would be more likely to misattribute other emotions as anger for Black children than for White children, and these odds would increase for older Black children.
Participants. Participants were 178 college students training to become elementary school teachers at three universities (average age = 22.47, 68.6% White, 88.3% Female, 82.6% juniors and seniors). The participants judged the emotional expressions of 60 Black and White (10- to 12-year old) actors in the Child Increasingly Clear Emotion task (CICE, Halberstadt et al., 2016). The dynamic expressions of the children had been ascertained as beginning at a neutral position and finishing at prototypicality using FACS coding (Ekman & Friesen, 1978); we showed participants the very beginning of the emotional expression, with no facial muscle movements that were related to anger. To test for anger bias, we assessed the odds of misattributing anger to a facial expression that was largely ambiguous and was not angry (average odds of correctly identifying the intended emotional expression was OR=.67, CI= .64-.70).
Results. Using the SAS procedure Glimmix to assess the odds of anger bias occurring, we found a significant interaction between race and age on anger bias (γ03 = .3691, t = 5.39, p < .001). Unpacking the interaction reveals that Black children (males and females) have a higher odds of receiving anger bias than White children, and the odds increase for older Black children.
Discussion. These results indicate that Black children experience anger bias beginning at a young age and that this bias when judging Black compared to White children’s emotions increases as Black children mature. Next steps might include whether these types of misattributions relate to Black students’ greater receipt of disciplinary actions for subjective behaviors such as “disrespect,” “hostility,” and challenges to teacher’s authority in educational settings. Future research should also assess whether this anger bias occurs for children who are even younger than the children in the current measure.

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