“WHAT ARE WE THINKING?” VERSUS “WHAT ARE THEY THINKING?”: SOCIAL CATEGORIZATION AND THE INTRACULTURAL ADVANTAGE IN MENTAL STATE DECODING

Open Access
Author:
Stevenson, Michael
Graduate Program:
Psychology
Degree:
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
None
Committee Members:
  • Reginald Adams Jr., Thesis Advisor
Keywords:
  • mental state decoding
  • social categorization
Abstract:
The majority of social communication is conveyed through nonverbal behavior. Accordingly, nonverbal sensitivity is necessary for smooth communication and social adaptability. Interestingly, basic emotion perception has largely been shown to be universal across cultures, though small intracultural advantages have also been documented. Two theories may help explain these advantages. First, nonverbal behavior may carry with it cultural dialects, or small, physical differences in the expression of emotions and mental states that vary from one culture to the next that, coupled with culturally defined perceptual attunements to such features, may facilitate accurate decoding of same- versus other-culture members. Second, social categorization, the tendency to allocate more attentional resources to the processing of ingroup targets than to outgroup targets, may influence the ability to properly process emotional or mental state expressions. The present studies examine the latter route. It was found that, under certain conditions, the relative speed of categorization of a target as an outgroup versus an ingroup member was predictive of an ingroup advantage in mental state decoding. Methodological constraints and potential implications of this effect are discussed.