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Thursday, 16 September 2010

Perception of Emotion Is Culture-Specific

An interesting study of other cultures, Tanaka's study shows how we don't necessarily all perceive emotion in the same way:

"A new study examines how Dutch and Japanese people assess others’ emotions and finds that Dutch people pay attention to the facial expression more than Japanese people do."

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?”— two 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.

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.

Akihiro Tanaka: "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."

"Our findings can contribute to better communication between different cultures."





Indeed! The study may also affect therapy sessions, as what may seem to be an obvious emotion to one person, may not be so obvious to another. More specifically, one method of therapy that works in the west may not be as effective in the east.

In any case, it shows how our culture can directly influence our perception of the world and this brings us one step closer to understanding each other.

Link to Article

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