A Cross-cultural comparison of emotional experience: Does culture matter?
Type of DegreeThesis
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This study explored if and how culture influences the experience of emotion in two distinct groups: Indians and North Americans. Past studies have suggested that differences among persons from different cultures in the domain of emotional expression exist; however, the origin of such differences has not been determined. The purpose of this study was to explore the extent to which observed differences in emotional experiences are based on learned cultural dictates regarding the proper ways to express emotion, differences in physiological responses to emotion evoking stimuli or some combination of the two factors. It was hypothesized that the physiological differences between participants of different cultural backgrounds would be more similar than different. It was expected that cultural identification would influence the expression and intensity of the emotions experienced suggesting that culture does matter in the experience of emotions. Indian participants and U.S. participants did not differ in their physiological response to the emotional stimuli. However, there was a significant difference in the intensity of the subjective response to the stimulus. Both groups reported neutral slides as more positive than the positive slides. The subjective intensity of the emotional response was higher for the Indian participants on all three-slide valences. On the SAM measures, the US participants reported feeling more calm while viewing the positive and the neutral slides than their Indian counterparts did; however, the Indian participants reported feeling more calm while viewing the negative slides. Similarly, the US participants reported feeling more in control of the positive and the neutral slides than their Indian counterparts did. Once again, the Indian participants reported being more in control of the negative slides than their US counterparts did. Counterintuitively, the analyses of the questionnaire data revealed that the US participants had higher interdependent self-construal and the Indian participants reported higher independent self-construal and higher positive affect. Higher level of alexithymia was associated with negative affect; however, higher level of alexithymia did not correlate with interdependent self-construal in the predicted direction. There was no correlation between affect and satisfaction with life for the Indian group; however, in the US group negative affect was associated with lower life satisfaction. In addition, there was no significant influence of acculturation or gender in the expression or experience of emotions. Limitations and directions for future research are discussed.