Chapter 3 ± Cultural Understandings of Emotion
The construction of emotions in the West
x Plato (375 BCE), thought emotions arise from the lower part of the mind and pervert reason.
x Darwin (1872) brought it back, thought that in human adults, expressions of emotions are obsolete, vestiges of evolution
from the beasts and of our development from infancy
x Romanticism ± Romantic era emotions came to be valued in personal life, in politics, literature, and in philosophy
o Jean-Jacques Rousseau proposed that education should be natural, and that people¶s natural emotions
indicate what is right ± they have merely to be alive to the feelings of their conscience.
x By 1800, Romanticism became firmly part of Western culture
o Inspired poets, novelists, painters, etc. ± saw it as their mission to express their emotions through art and to
move readers, audiences, viewers, etc.
o Fascinated by the natural
o Emotion, experienced and accepted, became an ideal to be cultivated **
x Mary Shelley¶s novel Frankenstein
o Themes of Romanticism
o Settings amid wild scenery
o Emphasis on the natural ± distrust of the artificial
x Æ In general, in the Romantic movement, we see core beliefs about human nature, and about emotions as original,
primordial, authentic causes of behavior, that are alive today.
x Æ Emotions are powerful forces, often at odds with more deliberate, rational thought embodied in science and codified in
The elements of a cultural approach to emotion
x Values, concepts and ideas about the self as expressed in art forms, rituals, social practices and institutions, SHAPE how
members of particular societies experience emotions, and that these matters ARE NOT universal.
x 1) Involves the assumption that emotions are constructed primarily by the processes of culture
o Aspects ranging from how emotions are valued to how they are elicited are shaped by cultural-specific beliefs
o This in turn have been affected by historical and economic forces.
o A more radical view« emotions come from human meanings which are necessarily cultural.
x 2) Some cultural approaches is that emotions is thought as roles that people fulfill to play out culture-specific identities and
o Hochschild (1985) ± ex: falling in love, like many emotions, acts as a temporary social role. Falling in love
accomplishes a transition from one structure of social relationships to another
o Potential ± People are capable of showing certain universal emotional responses in terms of experience,
expression and physiology (put in an experimental situation)
o Practice ± what actually happens in people¶s everyday lives. (day-to-day experience)
x Æ people from different cultures appear to be similar in their emotional potential, especially when this potential is
described at a higher level of meaning.
x Æ however, despite the similarities in basic elements of emotional life, concrete emotional realities in different cultures
may widely vary.
1) The self-construal approach: independent and interdependent selves
x Declaration of Independence ± prioritized the rights and freedoms of the individual, protected the individual from having
those rights and liberties infringed by others.
x Confucius«emphasized the importance of knowing once¶ place in society, of honoring traditions people are concerned
about their individuality.
x Self-construal ± an individual¶s sense of self in relation to others. There are two kinds:
I am autonomous, separate
I have unique traits and preferences
I fulfill roles and duties
Behavior is the result of«
Who I am is stable across contexts
My identity varies across contexts
Cultural variation example ± Anger
x In Japan, anger is considered highly inappropriate between relations or colleagues
x In Western societies (America, for example), anger between individuals who know and like each other is relatively
common and accepted. Anger was said to assert authority or independence, or improve their image.
x Anger expression of infants¶ parents
x American and Japanese infants were no different in how soon they moved after the sound of their mothers¶ joyful or
x Cultural differences were pronounced after their mothers had spoken in an angry voice:
o American infants started moving toward the toy an average of 18 seconds«
o Japanese infants took longer, an average of 48 seconds.