The divides between racial or ethnic groups tend to be more vast and may promote stronger feelings of hostility, fear, and distrust than the divides based on other social categories, such as gender, appearance, and age. This can make interracial interaction particularly challenging and fraught with emotion and tension. When engaging in interracial interactions, whites may be concerned about not wanting to be or not appearing to be racist. A person of color may be concerned about the potential racism or insincere motives of the white person they’re interacting with. According to Jacquie Vorauer, individuals engaging in intergroup interactions of- ten activate metastereotypes, or thoughts about the outgroup’s stereotypes about them, and worry about being seen as consistent with these stereotypes.
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People engaging in interracial interactions may therefore try to regulate their behaviors, be on the lookout for signs of distrust or dislike from their interaction part- ners, and so on. Because of these concerns, what should ideally be a smooth-flowing normal interaction can become awkward and even exhausting, and the awkward- ness can ironically seem to confirm each person’s worse suspicions about the other. Indeed, these kinds of concern can leave individuals cognitively exhausted after such an interaction and with cardiovascular reactions associated with feelings of threat.