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Journal of Applied Social Psychology



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Communication | Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Ethnicity in Communication | Interpersonal and Small Group Communication


A positive interracial interaction can create a foundation for friendships, improved intergroup attitudes and reduced prejudice. Recent research has demonstrated that what people talk about in important. Here, two studies expand the interaction content model of interracial interactions to reveal that Black and White Americans perceive interaction content in similar and different ways. As expected, Black and White participants evaluated conversation topics along the same three dimensions, but differed in their perceptions of specific conversation topics. These convergences and differences emerged for pre‐generated (Study 1) and self‐generated (Study 2) topics. Factor analyses revealed that conversation attributes similarly distilled to the predicted underlying content dimensions of intimacy, valence, and controversy for Black and White Americans. However, Black individuals found interaction content, in general, to be more controversial, race‐related, enjoyable, and predictable than White individuals. Although both groups found race‐related content more controversial, Black individuals were less bothered by discussing race and found race‐related topics to be more predictable and enjoyable to discuss. These findings supported the interaction content model which may provide a framework for future research on interracial interactions. We conclude with the importance of considering differences in perceptions of interaction content, as well as suggestions for how intergroup interaction research could benefit from systematically incorporating such content.


This is the pre-peer reviewed version of the following article: Olson MA, Johnson CS, Zabel KL, Phillips JE. Different sides of the same conversation: Black and White partners differ in perceptions of interaction content. J Appl Soc Psychol. 2018;48(8):424–436., which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions.