Culture and Emotion

A man hugging another man in large crowd.
Emotions help us navigate the complex social landscape of our lives.

It is impossible to imagine life without emotion. We treasure our feelings—the joy at a soccer game, the pleasure of the touch of a loved one, or the fun with friends on a night out. Even negative emotions are important, such as the sadness when a loved one dies, the anger when violated, fear that overcomes us in a scary or unknown situation, or the guilt or shame when our mistakes are made public. Emotions color life experiences and give those experiences meaning and flavor. In order to communicate and function effectively as employees, students, parents and citizens in a global community, we must understand the function of emotions and the ways culture shapes our emotions.

The words emotion and mood are sometimes used interchangeably, but psychologists use these words to refer to two different things. An emotion refers to a transient, automatic, neurophysiological event that is relatively intense and that occurs in response to something we experience. Mood refers to a prolonged, less intense, affective state that does not occur in response to something we experience. Mood states do not carry the intentionality that is associated with emotion (Beedie, Terry, Lane, & Devonport, 2011). There are three components associated with emotion:

  • Physiological arousal (involuntary)
  • Behavioral
  • Cognitive


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Culture and Psychology by L D Worthy; T Lavigne; and F Romero is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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