Race-based biases in judgments of social pain

Jason C. Deska, Jonathan Kunstman, E. Paige Lloyd, Steven M. Almaraz, Michael J. Bernstein, J. P. Gonzales, Kurt Hugenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Six studies tested the hypothesis that evaluators judge Black people less sensitive to social pain than White people. Social pain was operationalized as the psychological distress caused by experiences that damage social worth and interpersonal relationships (e.g., derogation, exclusion, unfairness). White evaluators judged both Black male (Studies 1, 2a, & 2b) and female (Studies 2a & 2b) targets as experiencing less social pain than White male and female targets. Study 3 provided evidence that this bias also extends to Black evaluators. Further, the belief that Black people are less sensitive to social pain than White people was mediated by judgments of differential life hardship experienced by Black and White targets (Study 4) and did not seem to be a subset of a broader tendency to judge Black targets as generally insensate (Study 5). Critically, the observed race-based social pain bias also translated into beliefs that Black targets needed fewer supportive resources than White targets to cope with socially painful events (Study 6). The current research demonstrates that there are racial biases in judgments of others' psychological distress and these biases inform social support judgments for those in need.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number103964
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
StatePublished - May 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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