Emotions in Intergroup Contact: Incidental and Integral Emotions' Effects on Interethnic Bias Are Moderated by Emotion Applicability and Subjective Agency

Stefania Paolini, Jake Harwood, Aleksandra Logatchova, Mark Rubin, Matylda Mackiewicz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This research draws from three distinct lines of research on the link between emotions and intergroup bias as springboard to integrative, new hypotheses. Past research suggests that emotions extrinsic to the outgroup (or “incidental”), and intrinsic to the outgroup (or “integral”), produce valence-congruent effects on intergroup bias when relevant or “applicable” to the outgroup (e.g., incidental/integral anger and ethnic outgroups). These emotions produce valence incongruent effects when irrelevant or “non-applicable” to the outgroup (e.g., incidental/integral sadness and happiness, and ethnic outgroups). Internally valid and ecologically sound tests of these contrasting effects are missing; hence we examined them experimentally in meaningful settings of interethnic contact. To this end, we hybridized established research paradigms in mood and intergroup contact research; this approach enabled us to use same materials and induction methods to instigate incidental and integral emotions in a single research design. In Experiment 1, White Australian students (N = 93) in in vivo real face-to-face contact with an ethnic tutor in their classroom displayed less interethnic bias when incidentally sad (vs. happy) or integrally happy (vs. sad). In Experiment 2, White American males' (N = 492) anti-Arab bias displayed divergent effects under incidental vs. integral (non-applicable) sadness/happiness and similar effects under incidental vs. integral (applicable) anger. The role of perceptions of agency in the emotion-inducing situation is also explored, tested, and explained drawing from mainstream emotion theory. As expected, integral and incidental applicable emotions caused valence congruent effects, at the opposite sides of the subjective agency spectrum, by encouraging the generalization of dislike from the outgroup contact partner to the outgroup as a whole. On the other hand, incidental-non-applicable emotions caused valence-incongruent effects on bias, under high agency conditions, by encouraging (non-partner-centered) heuristic processing. Because of the improved methodology, these effects can be regarded as genuine and not the byproduct of methodological artifacts. This theory-driven and empirically sound analysis of the interplay between emotion source, emotion applicability and subjective agency in intergroup contact can increase the precision of emotion-based bias reduction strategies by deepening understanding of the emotion conditions that lead to intergroup bias attenuation vs. exacerbation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number588944
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
StatePublished - May 28 2021


  • emotion applicability
  • emotion source
  • incidental emotion
  • integral emotion
  • intergroup bias
  • intergroup contact
  • perceived agency
  • prejudice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Emotions in Intergroup Contact: Incidental and Integral Emotions' Effects on Interethnic Bias Are Moderated by Emotion Applicability and Subjective Agency'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this