Are Emotions Really Cross-Cultural?

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I recently found an article from Psychology News titled "Perception of Facial Expressions Differs Across Cultures." In this article, a group of researchers from University of Glasgow are using falsifiability to refute what has been presented to us in our Lilienfeld textbooks of Psychology 1001. According to them, East Asians and Western Caucasians differ in how they interpret angry, happy and sad faces. Prior evidence has been presented that all humans entail the 7 primary emotions of fear, anger, disgust, happiness, sadness, contempt and surprise. According to our textbook, these primary emotions are cross-culturally universal. These emotions are the biologically based emotions from which other emotions arise, even though the negative emotions may be harder to interpret. However, the Glasgow researchers used statistical image processing techniques to examine how 15 chinese and 15 caucasian participants viewed the facial representations. Neutral based images were altered and shown to the participants and they were instructed to categorize the facial expressions. This study found that the chinese tend to rely on the eyes and caucasians tend to rely on the mouth and eyebrows when classifying facial expressions. These distinctions could lead to misinterpretations across cultures, which is different from what has previously been thought. This study does not go against the Discrete Emotional Theory, which states that humans experience a small amount of emotions that are biologically rooted. This is because this study only researched a total of 30 participants which can not be enough to conclude much. Overall, it is important to take into account this study, and others, when understanding the cultural differences in communication.

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Were they really different emotions or different representations of emotion? Or was it just different aspects of the emotional expression were emphasized? Interesting study. A picture would improve the post.

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This page contains a single entry by schm3270 published on November 6, 2011 11:16 AM.

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