When appearance does not match accent:neural correlates of ethnicity-related expectancy violations

Hansen, Karolina and Steffens, Melanie C. and Rakić, Tamara and Wiese, Holger (2017) When appearance does not match accent:neural correlates of ethnicity-related expectancy violations. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 12 (3). pp. 507-515. ISSN 1749-5016

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Most research on ethnicity in neuroscience and social psychology has focused on visual cues. However, accents are central social markers of ethnicity and strongly influence evaluations of others. Here, we examine how varying auditory (vocal accent) and visual (facial appearance) information about others affects neural correlates of ethnicity-related expectancy violations. Participants listened to standard German and Turkish-accented speakers and were subsequently presented with faces whose ethnic appearance was either congruent or incongruent to these voices. We expected that incongruent targets (e.g., German accent/Turkish face) would be paralleled by a more negative N2 event-related brain potential (ERP) component. Results confirmed this, suggesting that incongruence was related to more effortful processing of both Turkish and German target faces. These targets were also subjectively judged as surprising. Additionally, varying lateralization of ERP responses for Turkish and German faces suggests that the underlying neural generators differ, potentially reflecting different emotional reactions to these targets. Behavioral responses showed an effect of violated expectations: German-accented Turkish-looking targets were evaluated as most competent of all targets. We suggest that bringing together neural and behavioral measures of expectancy violations, and using both visual and auditory information, yields a more complete picture of the processes underlying impression formation.

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Journal Article
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Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience
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18 Oct 2016 10:28
Last Modified:
22 Nov 2022 03:53