What is it about?

A large literature on nonverbal behaviors demonstrates that we use the nonverbal body cues of others to help us understand and inform impressions of them. Research examining the different meanings extracted from nonverbal cues, however, has focused on White men. We address this gap and demonstrate that race can impact the meaning obtained from body pose as expansive versus constrictive. Although photographs of both Black and White men in expansive compared to constrictive body poses were perceived as more dominant, this dominance stemmed from greater perceptions of aggression for Black but not White men. Also, whereas White men were perceived as substantially more successful in expansive compared to constrictive poses, this professional boost was significantly smaller for Black men. Finally, White but not Black men benefited interpersonally from expansive compared to constrictive poses and for Black men only, perceptions of greater aggression from expansiveness prevented participants from choosing them for an upcoming partner task.

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Why is it important?

Our findings signal the importance of considering race when understanding the implications of nonverbal behaviors. For Black men, this work highlights the reach that aggressive stereotypes can have on their lives and experiences. As already intuited by much of the Black community, this work provides experimental evidence that the same nonverbal behavior can be perceived as more aggressive when enacted by Black compared to White men, which can subsequently have negative consequences for Black men in various contexts such as professional and interpersonal domains.

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This page is a summary of: Posing while black: The impact of race and expansive poses on trait attributions, professional evaluations, and interpersonal relations., Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, May 2022, American Psychological Association (APA),
DOI: 10.1037/pspa0000313.
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