Luther senior Rabang selected to research emotion interpretation during summer

With racial tensions on the rise, Samantha Rabang, Luther College senior of West Des Moines, Iowa, has chosen to research the contributions of prejudice and emotional intelligence in interpreting emotions for her summer student-faculty collaborative research project at the college.

Rabang, the daughter of Larry and Peachy Rabang, of West Des Moines, is a 2014 graduate of Dowling Catholic High School. She is majoring in psychology and music at Luther.

"The most interesting part of this is reading different types of research that present different viewpoints on aspects of emotional intelligence. It reminds me of my first year [at Luther] when I took Paideia and wrote a major research paper second semester. We learned how to take in information from different sources and incorporate them into our work, which is what I have to do now with this project," said Rabang.

Rabang is working with Stephanie Travers, Luther associate professor of psychology, on her project "Misinterpreting Facial Emotions of African Americans: Are Caucasians Prejudiced of Just Emotionally Inept?"

The group is researching the reasons why caucasians misinterpret neutral black faces as showing angry or hostile emotion and if this is due to prejudice and bias, or because they have low emotional intelligence (ability to understand the emotions of self and others). This project will examine whether college-age students will display the "own-race bias" and if misinterpreted emotions reflect the influence of stereotypes. The duo hopes to reveal the implicit presence of racism in the United States today in order to overcome these biases.

The group's collaboration is one of 26 summer student-faculty research projects funded through Luther's College Scholars Program and Dean's Office. The Student-Faculty Summer Research projects provide students an opportunity to research topics of interest alongside Luther faculty. This program is one of a wide selection of experiential learning opportunities at Luther intended to deepen the learning process and that are part of Luther's academic core.

The results of the project will be presented at Luther's Student Research Symposium in 2018.

A national liberal arts college with an enrollment of 2,150, Luther offers an academic curriculum that leads to the Bachelor of Arts degree in more than 60 majors and pre-professional programs. For more information about Luther visit the college's website: