Predicting behavior during interracial interactions: A stress and coping approach

Sophie Trawalter, Jennifer A. Richeson, J. Nicole Shelton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

218 Scopus citations


The social psychological literature maintains unequivocally that interracial contact is stressful. Yet research and theory have rarely considered how stress may shape behavior during interracial interactions. To address this empirical and theoretical gap, the authors propose a framework for understanding and predicting behavior during interracial interactions rooted in the stress and coping literature. Specifically, they propose that individuals often appraise interracial interactions as a threat, experience stress, and therefore cope-they antagonize, avoid, freeze, or engage. In other words, the behavioral dynamics of interracial interactions can be understood as initial stress reactions and subsequent coping responses. After articulating the framework and its predictions for behavior during interracial interactions, the authors examine its ability to organize the extant literature on behavioral dynamics during interracial compared with same-race contact. They conclude with a discussion of the implications of the stress and coping framework for improving research and fostering more positive interracial contact.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)243-268
Number of pages26
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology


  • Intergroup interactions
  • Nonverbal behavior
  • Prejudice
  • Stress and coping


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