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Date of Award

9-2010

Document Type

Campus Access

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Psychology

First Advisor

Nilanjana Dasgupta

Second Advisor

Linda Isbell

Third Advisor

Lisa Sanders

Subject Categories

Ethnic Studies | Social Psychology | Sociology

Abstract

Theories of emotion and intergroup relations predict a link between fear, outgroup perception, and behavioral intentions toward specific groups. However, surprisingly, past research has not empirically tested the impact of actually experiencing incidental fear on appraisals of in- and outgroups and socially impactful decision-making. Accordingly, the goals of this dissertation were three-fold: (1) to determine whether the experience of incidental fear increases biased decision-making targeted at racial outgroup vs. ingroup members; (2) to investigate whether some individuals are more impacted by fear than others; and (3) to explore the psychological mechanism underlying the biasing impact of fear. In Study 1, fear increased race biased decision-making for female (but not male) participants, and for those who chronically believe the world is a dangerous place. In Study 2, fear shunted attention selectively towards Black over White faces for female (but not male) participants; however, it did not produce race biased decision-making. In Study 3, fear did not modulate attention to danger-relevant stimuli or intergroup decisionmaking. The implications of these findings and future research directions are discussed.

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