The objective of this study is to measure contagious yawning to determine whether individuals are more empathic towards others that are racially similar to themselves. Empathy can directly affect our behaviors and influence implicit bias. When looking at race, implicit bias can take forms that are more subtle than outwards racism, and these forms are important to understand to recognize the psychology behind racial issues. Studies looking at racial in-group and out-group bias have found that when individuals look at racial in-group members experiencing a negative event, like physical pain or failure, there is more brain activity in areas related to empathy compared to when viewing outgroup members in the same situation. Lack of empathy for out-group members, or preferential empathy towards in-group members, has the potential to amplify racial divides, with dehumanizing affects. One measure of empathy is CY, and susceptibility to CY varies according to things like the possession of psychopathic traits and familiarity of the yawner to the viewer. However, susceptibility to CY hasn’t been studied from a racial in-group and out-group perspective. The current study would like to measure whether individuals differentially yawn to in-group and out-group members to determine if individuals are more empathic towards others that are racially similar to themselves. Participants will be asked to fill out the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI), a scale used to assess multiple dimensions of empathy, and watch a series of videos of White and Black individuals yawning. The number of yawns participants experience to the same and different race will serve as the measure for contagious yawning. We expect empathy levels to predict CY, and that individuals will yawn more when viewing members of their same race compared to the different race.

Additional Abstract Information

Student(s): Daroon M. Jalil

Department: Psychology

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Melanie Shoup-Knox

Type: Oral

Year: 2017

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