Abstract

We present empirical evidence that the common lore regarding less expressivity by Asian compared with Caucasian musicians is in fact a real bias. We also show that it is probably an illusion based on the degree of movement engaged in while performing. With only audio presentations (Experiment 1), there was no bias even though the knowledge of race or culture of performers was emphasized. With video presentations (Experiment 2), however, a clear bias emerged in favor of Caucasian musicians’ expressivity in the very same performances as in Experiment 1. Asian musicians were confirmed to engage in less movement during these performances (Experiment 3). Finally, perceived degree of movement was specifically varied in Experiment 4. When it was equalized in terms of ratings, the bias disappeared. Furthermore, when only high-movement performances were considered, Asian musicians were judged to be more expressive. The results are considered within the framework of racial and cultural expectations and the power of visual information in general.

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