Culture and Emotion

A man hugging another man in large crowd.
Emotions help us navigate the complex social landscape of our lives. [Image by Gwenael Piase and provided by Noba Project]

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

Learning Objectives

At the end of the chapter, you should be able to:

  1. Define the concept of emotions and describe the degree to which emotions are universal.
  2. Compare and contrast basic emotions with self – conscious emotions.
  3. Identify and explain at least one research study or theory that supports the universality of emotions.
  4. Identify the ways in which culture shapes our emotions.
  5. Define the term display rules of emotions.
  6. Differentiate between amplification and qualifying display rules
  7. Identify at least one cultural difference in display rules.
  8. Explain the ingroup advantage when interpreting emotions.


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Culture and Psychology Copyright © 2020 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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