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Expression of Emotion Varies by Culture

Expression of Emotion Varies by CultureA new study reviews how expression and perception of emotion is influenced by culture. In the study, investigators examined how Dutch and Japanese people assess others’ emotions.

Researchers determined Dutch people pay attention to the facial expression more than Japanese people do. On the other hand, Japanese people express emotion in the tone of voice, not in the face.

“As humans are social animals, it’s important for humans to understand the emotional state of other people to maintain good relationships,” says Akihiro Tanaka of Waseda Institute for Advanced Study in Japan.

“When a man is smiling, probably he is happy, and when he is crying, probably he’s sad.” Most of the research on understanding the emotional state of others has been done on facial expression; Tanaka and his colleagues in Japan and the Netherlands wanted to know how vocal tone and facial expressions work together to give you a sense of someone else’s emotion.

For the study, Tanaka and colleagues made a video of actors saying a phrase with a neutral meaning — “Is that so?” The actors said the phrase in two different ways, angrily and happily.

Then they edited the videos so that they also had recordings of someone saying the phrase angrily but with a happy face, and happily with an angry face. This was done in both Japanese and Dutch.

Volunteers watched the videos in their native language and in the other language and were asked whether the person was happy or angry.

They found that Japanese participants paid attention to the voice more than Dutch people did—even when they were instructed to judge the emotion by the faces and to ignore the voice.

The results are published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

This makes sense if you look at the differences between the way Dutch and Japanese people communicate, Tanaka speculates.

“I think Japanese people tend to hide their negative emotions by smiling, but it’s more difficult to hide negative emotions in the voice.” Therefore, Japanese people may be used to listening for emotional cues. This could lead to confusion when a Dutch person, who is used to the voice and the face matching, talks with a Japanese person; they may see a smiling face and think everything is fine, while failing to notice the upset tone in the voice.

“Our findings can contribute to better communication between different cultures,” Tanaka says.

Source: Association for Psychological Science

Expression of Emotion Varies by Culture

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Expression of Emotion Varies by Culture. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 25, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2010/09/16/expression-of-emotion-varies-by-culture/18257.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.