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Friendship trumps ethnicity (but not sexual orientation): Comfort and discomfort in inter-group interactions

Authors

  • Jonathan E. Cook,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Psychology, University of Oregon, Oregon, USA
      Jonathan E. Cook, Department of Psychology, Columbia University, 406 Schermerhorn Hall, 1190 Amsterdam Ave MC 5501, New York, New York 10027, USA (e-mail: jecook@columbia.edu)
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    • Current address: Department of Psychology, Columbia University, New York, USA

  • Justine E. Calcagno,

    1. Department of Psychology, University of Oregon, Oregon, USA
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    • Current address: Department of Psychology, City University of New York, New York, USA

  • Holly Arrow,

    1. Department of Psychology, University of Oregon, Oregon, USA
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  • Bertram F. Malle

    1. Department of Psychology, University of Oregon, Oregon, USA
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    • Current address: Department of Psychology, Brown University, Rhode Island, USA


Jonathan E. Cook, Department of Psychology, Columbia University, 406 Schermerhorn Hall, 1190 Amsterdam Ave MC 5501, New York, New York 10027, USA (e-mail: jecook@columbia.edu)

Abstract

An experience sampling study tested the degree to which interactions with out-group members evoked negative affect and behavioural inhibition after controlling for level of friendship between partners. When friendship level was statistically controlled, neither White nor Black participants reported feeling more discomfort interacting with ethnic out-group members compared to ethnic in-group members. When partners differed in sexual orientation, friendship level had a less palliating effect. Controlling for friendship, both gay and straight men – but not women – felt more behaviourally inhibited when interacting with someone who differed in sexual orientation, and heterosexual participants of both genders continued to report more negative affect with gay and lesbian interaction partners. However, gay and lesbian participants reported similar levels of negative affect interacting with in-group (homosexual) and out-group (heterosexual) members after friendship level was controlled. Results suggest that much of the discomfort observed in inter-ethnic interactions may be attributable to lower levels of friendship with out-group partners. The discomfort generated by differences in sexual orientation, however, remains a more stubborn barrier to comfortable inter-group interactions.

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