Friendship trumps ethnicity (but not sexual orientation): Comfort and discomfort in inter-group interactions

Jonathan E. Cook, Justine E. Calcagno, Holly Arrow, Bertram F. Malle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


An experience sampling study tested the degree to which interactions with out-group members evoked negative affect and behavioural inhibition after controlling for level of friendship between partners. When friendship level was statistically controlled, neither White nor Black participants reported feeling more discomfort interacting with ethnic out-group members compared to ethnic in-group members. When partners differed in sexual orientation, friendship level had a less palliating effect. Controlling for friendship, both gay and straight men - but not women - felt more behaviourally inhibited when interacting with someone who differed in sexual orientation, and heterosexual participants of both genders continued to report more negative affect with gay and lesbian interaction partners. However, gay and lesbian participants reported similar levels of negative affect interacting with in-group (homosexual) and out-group (heterosexual) members after friendship level was controlled. Results suggest that much of the discomfort observed in inter-ethnic interactions may be attributable to lower levels of friendship with out-group partners. The discomfort generated by differences in sexual orientation, however, remains a more stubborn barrier to comfortable inter-group interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)273-289
Number of pages17
JournalBritish Journal of Social Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology


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