The salience of socially engaging and disengaging emotions among Black and White South Africans
Kgantsi, Tselane Rose
Fontaine, Johnny R.J.
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This study investigated the experience of disengaging and engaging emotions among Black and White South African university students. In total 351 Black and White students attending a large North Western province university in South Africa (45% Black students, 69% female students, Mage = 21.09, SDage = 3.02) reported on their emotions in general, on the last emotional experience they had at home, and on the last emotional experience they had at university. They rated in each context 55 emotion terms that represented the emotion domain. Participants could either respond in English, Setswana, or Afrikaans. A multidimensional scaling revealed a two-dimensional structure across Blacks and Whites, the three languages, and the three contexts. On the first dimension negative emotions (such as sadness) were opposed to positive emotions (such as joy). On the second dimension disengaging emotions (such as anger and pride) were opposed to engaging emotions (such as guilt and compassion). Thus also in South Africa emotions differ with respect to whether they set a person apart from the social context (disengaging), or whether they link a person to the social context (engaging). Contrary to expectation, Blacks did not report more engaging and less disengaging emotions than Whites. In the university context no differences were observed, while in the home and general context Blacks reported more disengaging and less engaging emotions than Whites. Post hoc explanations are proposed in terms of relative differences in social status, acculturative changes, and the specific experiences of Black and White students in the South-African context.