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Chapter 3 – Cultural Understandings of Emotion
The construct of emotions in the west
•Romanticism – emotions came to be valued in personal like, in politics in literature and in philosophy
oRousseau – first to publish the idea that religious sensibility is based on how you feel rather than
on authority or scriptures – education should be natural and that people’s natural emotions
indicate what is right.
The elements of a cultural approach to emotion
•Romanticism shaped out current conception and experience of emotion in the west – we think emotions
are both irrational and authentic aspects of the true self are products of a particular culture.
•Cultural approach to emotion?
oInvolves the assumption that emotions are constructed primarily by the process of culture
oSome cultural approaches is that emotions can be thought of as roles that people fulfill to play
out culture-specific identities and relationships
•Mesquita – contends that cultural approaches focus on the practice of emotion in contrast to the potential
oPotential – asking whether people of different cultures, if put in appropriate experimental
situation, would be capable of showing certain universal emotional responses (probably yes)
oPractice – what actually happens in people’s emotional lives
3 approaches that have emerged in psychology’s new interest in culture:
The self-construal approach: independent and interdependent selves
•Declaration of Independence prioritized the rights and freedom of the individual vs. Confucius
emphasized that importance of knowing one’s place in society, honoring traditions and roles
•Western socieities, people are concerned about their individuality about self-actualizing, about freedom
•Markus characterized 2 different kinds of self-construal
oIndependent self-construal – autonomous and separate form others, focus on individualism,
assert one’s distinctiveness and independence. When focusing on human behaviour the focus is
on internal causes (i.e. one’s dispositions or preferences – which is stable over time & context)
oInterdependent self-construal – the self is fundamentally connected with other people, find
one’s status, identity and roles within the community and other collectives, place emphasis on
social context an situational influences on behaviour
•How do these construal lead to cultural variation in emotions?
oi.e. Japan & anger – appropriate in certain situations/social groups (i.e. samurai but frown upon
ostudy – Japanese babies were probably more inhibited by their mother’s angry expressions
because these were rare and highly negative events
•an example of difference between 2 construal – Amae – positive emotions of interdependence, kind of
merged togetherness. This emotion has no approved place in adult western society – view this as
The Values Approach
•Understand cultural differences in emotion in terms of differences in values (broad principles that
govern social behaviour)
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