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What We Talk About Matters: Content Moderates Cognitive Depletion in Interracial Interactions
The Journal of Social Psychology (2015)
  • Kevin L. Zabel, University of Tennessee
  • Michael A. Olson, University of Tennessee
  • Camille S. Johnson, San Jose State University
  • Joy E. Phillips, University of Tennessee
The antecedents and consequences of intergroup interactions have been well studied, but interaction content—what partners actually talk about—has not. In the experiment we report here, interaction content moderated well-documented self-regulation effects (i.e., cognitive depletion) among White participants interacting with a Black partner. Specifically, White individuals participated in a video email interaction with an ostensible Black or White partner who broached topics systematically varying in intimacy. Greater cognitive depletion was evident after interacting with a Black partner relative to a White partner, but only after discussing more intimate topics. When conversation topics aligned with Whites’ preferences to avoid intimacy in interracial interactions, depletion effects were reduced. Thus, interaction content, which has been largely ignored in intergroup interaction research, has important implications for intergroup interaction.
  • dyadic interaction,
  • intergroup contact,
  • intergroup interaction,
  • prejudice,
  • self-regulation
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Citation Information
Kevin L. Zabel, Michael A. Olson, Camille S. Johnson and Joy E. Phillips. "What We Talk About Matters: Content Moderates Cognitive Depletion in Interracial Interactions" The Journal of Social Psychology Vol. 155 Iss. 6 (2015) p. 545 - 552 ISSN: 0022-4545
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