Culture Differences in Emotion

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Whether or not emotions are experienced consistently across different cultures has been researched for decades. On one side, psychologists who believe emotion is a universal construct view emotional experience as being biologically based. For example, Dr. Paul Ekman, an emotion psychologist, claims that emotions are genetically determined, meaning that facial expressions of emotions are interpreted the same way across most cultures. Dr. Nangyeon Lim, on the other hand, argues in the 2016 article Cultural differences in emotion: Differences in emotional arousal level between the East and the West that we should not dismiss the cultural component that influences emotions in a variety of ways. Studies show that emotions are not only biologically determined but also influenced by environmental, social, and/or cultural situations.

According to Lim, Eastern culture refers to that of East Asian countries like Korea, Japan, and China. Being connected to and interdependent on others is considered a valuable part of what makes up the cultures of these countries and is identified as collectivism. Those in collectivist cultures work to fit into the groups they are in by adjusting themselves as to not influence others. This explains why in Eastern culture it is more desirable to experience emotions that produce low arousal allowing them to conform to those within their group. The ideology is that causing conflict works against the harmony of the group. The emotions Lim lists as being low arousal include contented, at ease, relaxed, peaceful, depressed, sleepy, sad, miserable, etc.

Western culture, on the other hand, Lim explains, refers to the cultures of North American and Western European countries. These countries value the uniqueness of the individual, encouraging its members to express their feelings and influence those around them. Western culture, also known as individualist culture, hold emotions that incite high arousal as ideal for this reason. Lim lists high arousal emotions as enthusiastic, joyful, happy, excited, afraid, angry, irritated, hostile, etc.

There is a belief in Korean or Chinese medicine that humans experience seven emotions: joy, anger, sadness, pleasure, love, greed, and hatred. Those that believe this consider excessive emotional experiences to be harmful and to even go as far as causing diseases, even if they are experiencing positive emotions. Hwabyung, or “anger syndrome” is a disease frequently reported in Korean culture and is said to be the result of suppressing anger which is a high arousal emotion.

Cultures influence our ideal affect, or the way that ideally, we want to feel. This causes us to behave in certain ways so that we feel the emotion we believe we should be experiencing. Americans emphasize happiness as being an upbeat emotion, while the Chinese idea of happiness focuses on being solemn and reserved. Happiness, in this context, is a universal emotion experienced culturally.


Lim, N. (2016). Cultural differences in emotion: Differences in emotional arousal level between the East and the West. Integrative Medicine Research, 5, 105-109. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.imr.2016.03.004


 

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By Haley Falcon

Haley Falcon is a senior majoring in Psychology with minors in Human Development and History. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, she plans on using her degree to pursue new opportunities.

Anger Management Tip: Take a Timeout

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breathe-airWhen I was a kid, there was a PSA on TV from time to time that went something like this: “When you feel yourself getting tense. Stop. Two. Three….  Breath. Two. Three…. Think your way to sense.”

Despite the cheesy phrasing, timeouts are a good thing for adults, teens, and kids alike.  They can help us calm down when we’re frustrated.  So, the next time you’re feeling angry, take a break, count to five, or walk away from the person you are frustrated with until your anger dissipates.


PodcastCheck out the All the Rage Podcast to learn more about anger and violence


 

ryanBy Dr. Ryan C. Martin
Ryan is the chair of the Psychology Department at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and a nationally known anger researcher.  His work focuses on healthy and unhealthy expressions of anger, including how we express anger online.

Find Ryan on Twitter, Facebook, or Snapchat (rycmart)

How Does Anger Change as We Age?

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crabby_womanDo people really get crabbier as they get older?  Not according to a recent study in the Journal of Aging and Mental Health.  The authors of the study, Drs. Sarah Robertson and Rhonda Swickert, asked a group of 80 young adults (ages 18-34) and a group of 80 older adults (ages 60-91) to recall a negative emotional story about their lives.  They were encouraged to try to imagined the event in their mind and talk about the thoughts and feelings they had related to the event.

They then analyzed the content of those descriptions, looking for negative emotion words like sad, mad, scared, annoyed, etc.  They created a general category for “negative emotions” and three subcategories: anxiety (e.g., worried, fearful), sadness (e.g., crying, grief), and anger (e.g., hate, kill).


PodcastCheck out the All the Rage Podcast to learn more about anger and violence


The purpose of the study was to explore socioemotional selectivity.  This is the theory, originally described in a 1999 American Psychologist article By Dr. Laura Carstensen and her colleagues, that as we get older we put a premium on positive emotions and try to maximize those feelings while minimizing negative feelings.  Basically, it is a little mini-emotional midlife crisis where you realize that life is short and you should not waste it feeling sad, scared, or angry.

So what did Robertson and Swickert find?  Well, in some ways, their results did not look the way they expected.  They hypothesized that age would be negatively associated with negative emotion word use.  That did not happen.  But, while there were no differences on negative emotion words across the board, there were with anger words.  Older adults expressed fewer anger words in their writing than younger adults did.

They also found something interesting related to forgiveness. They had given everyone a questionnaire designed to measure their tendency to forgive across different situations.  Related to anger, they found that younger adults who scored low on this forgiveness scale (i.e., those who were less forgiving) scored higher on anger words than younger adults who scored high on the forgiveness scale.  As they described it, “forgiveness essentially allows for the abandonment of feelings of hurt and resentment in response to a transgression” and that tendency to forgive led to fewer anger words in their writing.


ryanBy Dr. Ryan C. Martin
Ryan is the chair of the Psychology Department at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and a nationally known anger researcher.  His work focuses on healthy and unhealthy expressions of anger, including how we express anger online.

Find Ryan on Twitter, Facebook, or Snapchat (rycmart)

Media’s Influence on One’s Perception of Violence and Mental Illness

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1682602_1280x720Both news and entertainment media show people with mental illness as dangerous, violent, or unpredictable. Many of the individuals who commit these crimes are presumed to have a mental illness and this in turn perpetuates the social stigma that all people with a mental illness are violent or dangerous. Before some of the most recent and deadly mass shootings including the 2016 Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, the 2017 Las Vegas shooting at am outdoor concert, and the 2017 First Baptist Church shooting in Texas, The Virginia Tech shootings was one of the deadliest shootings to date. Taking place in 2007 and ending with 32 dead and 15 wounded, the shooter was perceived to have had a mental illness that caused him to commit this crime.

Hoffner and colleagues conducted a study that examined the perceived influence of news coverage of the Virginia Tech shootings on one’s own and others’ attitudes about mental illness, and behavioral outcomes as a function of personal experience with mental illness. They utilized an online survey of 198 adults within about one month of the shootings. Individuals without a mental illness, the perceived news influence on their own attitudes toward mental illness was associated with more engagement in support/comfort activities and greater likelihood of online opinion expression. In contrast, individuals with a mental illness, perceiving that others attitudes had become more negative was associated with less engagement in support/comfort activities. Respondents with no experience of mental illness reported greater stereotypes about mental illness and less willingness to seek treatment and they expressed more fear and less anger than those who had experience with mental illness.

Me (2)Mackenzie is a senior majoring in Psychology and minoring in Human Development and Sociology. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay in May 2018, she plans on going to graduate school for Social Work.

 

 

Hoffner, C. A., Fujioka, Y., Cohen, E. L., & Atwell Seate, A. (2017). Perceived media influence, mental illness, and responses to news coverage of a mass shooting. Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 6(2), 159-173. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/ppm0000093

Does Commitment Promote Forgiveness?

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landscape-1454349521-marriage-fightStrong commitment in one’s relationships promotes positive mental events and forgiveness.  This is according to a 2002 study by Finkel and colleagues from Carnegie Mellon University.  They defined commitment as the intent to persist or the decision to remain dependent on the partner. Betrayal, meanwhile, is arguably one of the hardest things to forgive in any relationship. When people are betrayed, they often find it difficult to withdraw from the negative emotions that accompany the act.

Finkel and colleagues conducted three separate studies to explore the relationship between commitment and forgiveness: (1) a priming experiment, (2) a cross-sectional survey study, and (3) an interaction record study. . The authors believed that there would be a positive association between commitment and forgiveness and Study 1 found that individuals, who are highly committed to their partners, are more likely to forgive acts of betrayal. Study 2 and 3 looked at if mental events would bring about the association between commitment and behavior. Study 2 found that highly committed individuals had more positive immediate and delayed behaviors, immediate and delayed cognitive interpretations, and delayed emotional reactions however they had more negative emotional reactions. Study 3 demonstrated that when individuals are highly committed, even in acts of betrayal, they are more likely to look at the act with more positive emotion, cognition, and behavior. They also found that, the association of commitment with forgiveness was significantly affected by both cognitive interpretations and emotional reactions to the betrayal.

Me (2)Mackenzie is a senior majoring in Psychology and minoring in Human Development and Sociology. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay in May 2018, she plans on going to graduate school for Social Work.

 

 

Finkel, E. J., Rusbult, C. E., Kumashiro, M., & Hannon, P. A. (2002). Dealing with betrayal in close relationships: Does commitment promote forgiveness? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82(6), 956-974. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.82.6.956

#AngerFacts from my AlumniLink Talk

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I gave a talk tonight on anger for the UW-System Alumni Link event here in Green Bay.  During the talk, I provided six anger-related facts and promised they could find more information on Twitter or via Facebook.

I also promised I would tweet out a survey where they could learn more about the types of angry thoughts they may have.  Here is that survey.  

Here are the six facts with links to additional information:

  1. Anger is one of the four most basic emotions along with sadness, fear, and joy. Learn more.
  2. Witnessing aggressive expressions of anger at work leads to a decrease in creativity and productivity. Learn more.
  3. A fair workplace, where employees understand decisions and feel they are treated with respect, is associated with less employee anger and greater productivity. Learn more.
  4. Research shows that women who express anger at work lose influence over their peers, whereas men tend to gain credibility when they express anger.  Learn more.
  5. Anger is the most viral emotion online, spreading faster than sadness, fear, or joy. Learn more.
  6. Letting it out (aka catharsis) doesn’t work; it likely makes things worse. Learn more.