Interracial Friendship

Awarded Scholars:
Dacher Keltner, University of California, Berkeley
Project Date:
Jun 2003
Award Amount:
Project Programs:
Cultural Contact

Friendships between members of different racial groups are often seen as a way to break down stereotypes. However, such friendships are potentially challenging, because they may manifest society-wide tensions on an inter-personal level. Researchers know little about how interracial friendships work, how they differ from same-race bonds, what makes them successful and gratifying, and what kinds of obstacles they may face.


With a grant from the Russell Sage Foundation, Dacher Keltner will expand upon previous work he has conducted in this area. Keltner has already studied 14 pairs of cross-race, female friends and will now expand his sample to 40 friendship duos, including males. Using a battery of questionnaire measures and observations from structured interactions, Keltner will examine whether strong racial identity affects the emotional experience of interracial friendship. He will test to see if patterns which emerged from his earlier study hold with a larger sample. Do cross-race friendships generate more anxiety than same-race friendships? Are same-race friends better at estimating one another’s emotions than are cross-race friends? Do blacks overestimate the anxiety of their white friends? Do whites underestimate the affection their black friends feel for them? Keltner will pay particular attention to the way interracial friends tease one another and how they cope with discrimination.


RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal of original empirical research articles by both established and emerging scholars.


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