Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Not Every Culture Sees Positive Emotions the Same Way

From Free Fish Care Tips.
Time reports that the concept of "positivity" may be more culturally subjective than previously thought. This comes from a University of the Washington study that shows some cultures get no benefit from individual positive emotions--sometimes even seeing them as suspicious or dangerous.

The study's authors surveyed around 600 students from three different cultures:  European-Americans, Asian-American citizens, and Asian immigrants. The Asians tended to associate positive feelings with social harmony, while Americans associated those feelings with personal achievement.

Asians' emphasis on social harmony may not be very surprising, but the study also found that the Americans felt more stress relief from positive emotions than the Asian immigrants. Emotions like "happy," "joyful," "proud," and "strong" all reduced stress and depressive symptoms in Americans, but not Asian immigrants, with mixed results among Asian-Americans.

It would be interesting to see a more generalized study on this topic. From what I can tell, this study only looked at university students, which is already a self-selected sample (meaning participants are probably middle-to-upper class with somewhat high goals in life, simply because they are at a university). Surveying lower class people might give completely different results, as might looking at Asians within their native culture instead of Asian immigrants living in America. And there are more cultures in the world than just "European-American" and "Asian"!


  1. Lol, there are definately more cultures than that in the world! I kind of expected more when I just staretd reading this blog post of yours - a bit disspointed by such "narrow" study!

  2. Well, I guess the scientists have to start somewhere!