Are you black or are you white? I can't tell. The oneness effect of positivity.

Positivity has all sorts of good effects - one major one being the sense of oneness it creates among people. Literally, your brain changes how it sees the world. This process, called “self-expansion,” happens when, on a perceptual level, we begin to see others as closer and more interconnected to our own core. It shifts the idea of “me” and “you,” to “us” and “we.” (Aron, Aron, & Smollan, 1992). This concept of self-expansion expands to our perceptions of race. Typically race is the first thing we notice about a stranger; we register it in about 100 milliseconds (compare that to noticing someoneʼs sex in 150 milliseconds). When people are of the same race, itʼs easier to distinguish their unique features. However, typically, when asked to distinguish people of other races, participants normally experience difficulty in telling people apart (Meissner & Brigham, 2001). In an experiment replicated several times over, Barbara Fredrickson and her student found that when injected with positivity (as in watching happy movies or seeing positive imagery), racial bias is completely eliminated: people become just as good at recognizing unique features in people of different races as they are of people of the same race (Johnson & Fredrickson, 2005).

Ehhh hemmm, can anyone say WOOPAAH experience for diversity training?!


Wanna learn more? Resources:

Aron, A., Aron, E. N. & Smollan, D. (1992). Inclusion of others in the self scale and the ! structure of interpersonal closeness, Journal of Personality and Social ! Psychology 63:596-612.

Fredrickson, B. L. (2009). Positivity. New York: Crown Publisher.

Johnson, K. J., Waugh, C. E., & Fredrickson, B. L. (2008). Smile to see the forest: ! Expressed positive emotions broaden attentional copes and increase attentional ! flexibility. (manuscript under review).

Meissner, C. & Brigham, J. (2001). Thirty years of investigating the own-race bias in ! memory for faces. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law 7:3-35.