A series of experiments is proposed that systematically explores ethnic differences in the processes of emotional reactivity, emotional control, and emotional perception. Subjects will be young male and female African Americans, Chinese Americans, European Americans and Mexican Americans. Chinese Americans and Mexican Americans will be the first generation of their families born in the United States. Experiments will be conducted in a laboratory setting using a multi-method approach in which subjective experience (self-report of emotional state), expressive behavior (microanalytic and microanalytic observational coding) and autonomic and somatic nervous system physiology (monitoring of cardiovascular, electrodermal, somatic and respiratory activity) will be measured. The effects of socioeconomic status and acculturation will be determined in all experiments. To study emotional reactivity, a number of different stimuli will be used,some of which are more voluntary and internal to the subject (e.g., emotional memories and directed facial actions) and others that are more involuntary and external to the subject (acoustic startle and emotion- eliciting films). Several less emotional tasks (e.g., physical exercise) will be included to help isolate ethnic differences in emotional reactivity from possible ethnic differences in nonemotional reactivity. Whenever possible, multiple emotions will be sampled including anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness and surprise. To study emotional control, subjects will attempt to inhibit their emotional responses to an acoustic startle stimulus and to emotion-eliciting films. To study emotional perception, subjects will attempt to rate the feelings of another person who is engaged in a dyadic interactions. This research is motivated by suggestive empirical findings of ethnic differences in the realms of basic emotional processes and in vulnerability to emotion-related psychopathologies.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
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Emotion and Personality Review Committee (EMP)
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University of California Berkeley
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Soto, José Angel; Levenson, Robert W (2009) Emotion recognition across cultures: the influence of ethnicity on empathic accuracy and physiological linkage. Emotion 9:874-84
Roberts, Nicole A; Levenson, Robert W; Gross, James J (2008) Cardiovascular costs of emotion suppression cross ethnic lines. Int J Psychophysiol 70:82-7
Hagemann, Tim; Levenson, Robert W; Gross, James J (2006) Expressive suppression during an acoustic startle. Psychophysiology 43:104-12
Tsai, Jeanne L; Levenson, Robert W; McCoy, Kimberly (2006) Cultural and temperamental variation in emotional response. Emotion 6:484-97
Levenson, Robert W (2003) Blood, sweat, and fears: the autonomic architecture of emotion. Ann N Y Acad Sci 1000:348-66
Gottman, John Mordechai; Levenson, Robert Wayne; Swanson, Catherine et al. (2003) Observing gay, lesbian and heterosexual couples' relationships: mathematical modeling of conflict interaction. J Homosex 45:65-91
Gottman, John Mordechai; Levenson, Robert W; Gross, James et al. (2003) Correlates of gay and lesbian couples' relationship satisfaction and relationship dissolution. J Homosex 45:23-43
Levenson, Robert W; Ekman, Paul (2002) Difficulty does not account for emotion-specific heart rate changes in the directed facial action task. Psychophysiology 39:397-405
Tsai, J L; Levenson, R W; Carstensen, L L (2000) Autonomic, subjective, and expressive responses to emotional films in older and younger Chinese Americans and European Americans. Psychol Aging 15:684-93