Can Chinese accurately recognize pain from foreigners’ facial expressions?

Facial expression is a crucial nonverbal channel of pain communication that is often incorporated in clinical assessment and treatment. It is known that underestimation of minorities’ facial expressions of pain would lead to further racial disparities in pain care. However, research so far has been mainly conducted in Western countries. Little is known about how pain is assessed through facial expressions in other sociocultural contexts and the influences of race. Therefore, the primary aim of this research is to address this gap by focusing on how foreign patients’ facial expressions of pain are decoded in Chinese society. An online experiment will be conducted to examine Chinese participants’ evaluation of foreigners’ pain intensity and authenticity through their facial expressions. An additional aim of the project is to investigate possible underlying mechanisms by studying the Chinese participants’ pain beliefs and empathy. Such data will show the racial-related propensity of the decoding of pain expressions, which will reduce the risk of misunderstanding foreign patients’ pain and improve cross-cultural pain assessment and treatment.

Student Team Member

Zhiyuan (Zack) Liu, Class of 2023, Behavioral Science

Faculty Team Member

Shan Wang, Assistant Professor of Psychology