Individual talks: Emotion and culture

July 11th Room 4

The evaluation of 23 distinctive positive emotions in the Netherlands and Hong Kong 

Rui Sun, Bryant P.H. Hui, Tiarah Engels, Wei Kai Hou & Disa A. Sauter

There is a growing interest in understanding discrete positive emotions like pride, awe, schadenfreude, and excitement. However, little is known about the role of culture in how we approach different positive emotions. In the current study, we examined how individuals from the Netherlands (NL) and Hong Kong (HK) evaluated 23 distinctive positive emotions. 200 Dutch students and 200 Chinese students judged 23 positive emotions on six features: 1-3) the degree to which each emotion was regarded as appropriate, valued, and approved of in their society, and 4-6) the positivity, arousal, and level of social engagement of each emotion. Controlling for cultural response bias, we found evidence of systematic cultural differences in the extent to which emotions were considered appropriate, valued, approved, positive and socially engaging, but not the extent to which they were considered to be aroused. Furthermore, we found that the extent to which emotions were seen as positive, aroused, and socially engaging influenced whether they were evaluated as being appropriate, valued and approved. The relationships between engaging level/arousal level and being valued/approved were stronger in HK than in NL, while the relationships between positivity and being valued/approved were stronger in NL than in HK. These results suggest that Cantonese individuals value and approve positive emotions that are seen as highly socially engaging and highly aroused, while Dutch individuals value and approve emotions seen as particularly positive. These results will be discussed in the context of cultural models of interpersonal relationships.


Derya Gürcan-Yıldırım & W. Gerrod Parrott

Being the target of another person’s envy has complex emotional and social consequences that likely depend on cultural values. The purpose of this study was to investigate the cultural differences in emotional reactions in envy evoking situations. 145 Turkish and 105 American university students participated. They were presented with four different scenarios that described circumstances involving personal success or social relationships in which they might be envied by either their sibling or their friend. Turkey is a collectivistic culture which has relationship-oriented values, whereas the United States is an individualistic culture which has success-oriented values. Hence, we expected different emotional reactions to the different situations we created. Results revealed that participants from both cultures expected more negative emotional reactions from the envier and more positive emotions themselves when the context involved success (vs. relationships). Participants from the US experienced the situation as more self-affirming when the envier was their friend than when a sibling, whereas Turkish participants experienced the reverse. Participants from both cultures expected more benign envy from their siblings than from their friends, and Turkish participants expected more benign envy overall. US participants anticipated distancing themselves from the envier more than did Turkish participants, but Turkish participants anticipated gloating more than did US participants. Thus, we found both cultural similarities and differences in reaction to being envied, which were consistent with cultural differences in collectivism and competitiveness.

Facial emotion recognition in Germany and an indigenous group in Uganda: A cross-cultural comparison 

Martin Krippl, Lars Dumke & Anna Tcherkassof

Cross-cultural emotion recognition studies of Ekman have been criticized, because of the used forced choice format and relatively low recognition rates in isolated cultures (Russell, 1994). The aim of our study was to compare emotion recognition rates of a western German culture with a relatively isolated people from Uganda (Karamojong) with material consisting from more than the usual six basic emotions, and with a more open response format. We hypothesized that the recognition rates in the Ugandan group would be lower than in the German group. We also hypothesized an In-Group advantage for both groups. The sample consisted of 62 German (42 students) and 62 Ugandan (originally 67) participants. We presented eight types of emotion pictures and neutral faces (Keltner & Cordaro, 2014) in printed form (white and black posers). Additionally to the usual six basic emotions, contempt, sympathy and interest were added. Participants could categorize one emotion out of the nine a priori terms, including neutral, choose an own term or could choose “I do not know”. Results support the hypotheses of better recognition rates in the German (64%) than in the Ugandan (36%) sample. Analyzed separately for each a priori emotion, Germans had significantly higher recognition rates than Karamojong, apart from disgust. The In-Group advantage showed only up for the German sample. All in all the recognition rates are low. For the Karamojong they are too low to support basic emotion theory, although one may argue that emotion recognition is not the right paradigm to test the theory.

Emotions first and last: Positional patterns in written communication across cultures 

Simon Schweighofer & David Garcia

Text-based sentiment detection methods presuppose that emotional expressions are distributed uniformly within a text. We tested this assumption by analyzing more than 17 Million public online messages from five social media in English, German, and Chinese. We applied established sentiment lexica, including the English, German, and Chinese versions of the Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count dictionaries, and Affective Norms lexica of word valence and arousal in English and German. Our results show clear positional patterns of emotional expression both at the level of sentences and whole messages: First, shorter messages and sentences contain more intense and more frequent emotional terms. Second, emotional terms are clustered at the beginning and at the end of sentences and messages. And third, negative terms are preferentially found at the end of sentences and messages. These patterns are reflected both in frequency and intensity of emotional terms, are stable across multiple languages and corpora, and are observable across several orders of magnitude of message length. This suggests that these patterns might be cultural universals. We offer an explanation of these patterns in terms of the well-known serial position effect: If we assume that speakers prioritize the transmission of emotions to their audience, it makes sense that they communicate emotions at the beginning and end of messages, in order to take advantage of the greater retention rate in short-term memory. Our results show how the computerized analysis of large-scale datasets can reveal patterns of emotional expression that are stable across contexts and cultures.

Enshrouding the Evil Eye: Culture Mitigates Harmful Expressions of Envy 

Yingli Deng, Kenneth Tai, Yu-Shan (Sandy) Huang & Cynthia Wang

Envy is a universally-experienced emotion, yet the cultural context in which individuals are situated may influence the extent to which they respond to their feelings of envy. We propose that although envious individuals in both Western and East Asian cultures morally disengage, the relationship between moral disengagement and interpersonally harmful behavior is stronger for those in Western cultures emphasizing independence, as compared to those in East Asian cultures emphasizing interdependence. Across two studies (a field study and an experimental study), we find that the relationship between envy and interpersonally harmful behavior via moral disengagement is stronger for Americans as compared to East Asians. Our research suggests that cultural differences may affect negative behavioral expressions of envy and highlights the importance of considering cultural context, which can override people’s destructive reactions to envy.