Chapter 3.docx

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27 Apr 2012
Chapter 3 Cultural Understandings of Emotions
Lutz lived on island in Pacific, Ifaluk, studying emotional lives of people there
o One day, watched 5 YO girl dancing and making faces
o Responded warmly to girl, and asked not to smile because she’ll think that you’re not song – justifiably angry
o Encountered how different emotional lives of people on Ifaluk are from own people
Little girl should not have displayed ker, with risk of misbehaviour
Should be sitting quietly, as good socially intelligent people do
Difference in anger song, or justifiable anger, occurs with public breach of social rules
Song is not anger as West experience it, arising from violation of right it’s social duty to express song if notice
anything that could disrupt social harmony
Song is response to metagu anxious concern for others
Construction of Emotions in West
How to characterize implicit theory of emotions in West
o First, might note distrust of emotions if want to disparage an argument, say they’re being “emotional” or “irrational” -
goes back to Plato who thought emotions arise from lower part of mind and pervert reason
o Distrust was brought by Darwin, who implied that expressions of emotions are obsolete, vestiges of evolution from
beasts and development from infancy
In West, not consistent because we think emotions are guarantee of authenticity guide to true selves
Stances toward emotion, distrust on one hand and appreciation on other, are constructions of Western culture
Appreciation became marked in Europe and America during Romanticism
o Romanticism: period that started around 1750 in Europe, in which primacy of natural and of emotions was stressed, so
compared with artificial and with dictates of convention
JJ Rousseau was credited with articulation of romantic spirit
o First published idea that religious sensibility is based on how you feel rather than on authority
o Began to attack cultivated pursuits as artificial and corrupting proposed instead that education should be natural, and
people’s natural emotions indicate what’s right
By 1800 Romanticism became part of Western culture
o Inspired poets, novelists, musicians, who saw it as mission to express emotions through art
o Romantics fascinated by the natural
o Writers explored childhood, dreams, far-away places, exotic
Mary Shelley, eloped with Percy Bysshe Shelley at 16 and when 18, went on holiday during “ungenial” summer in Alps
o Prompted by conversation about experiments in which electricity was used to stimulate muscle movements in dead
creatures, there rose to her mind image of scientist with powerful engine beside him
o Story became Frankenstein, a Romantic novel
o Many themes or Romanticism in Frankenstein setting amid wild scenery, emphasis on natural, distrust of artificial,
apprehension of humans overstepping boundaries. See core beliefs about human nature, and about emotions as
original, primordial, authentic causes of behaviour, that are alive today
o Emotions are powerful forces, often at odds with more deliberate, rational thought embodied in science and codified
in cultural conventions
The Elements of Cultural Approach of Emotion
Beliefs about emotion in West, that emotions are both irrational and also authentic aspects of true self, are products of
particulat culture culture of Europe and NA
What does it mean to take cultural approach to emotion?
o Cultural approach involves assumptions that emotions are constructed primarily by processes of culture
o Aspects ranging from how emotions are valued to how they’re shaped by culture specific beliefs
o More radical claim is that emotions derive from human meanings which are necessarily cultural
They’re like languages or works of art
Radically different across different cultures, so that interest in emotions across cultures is an interest in
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o Second assumption of cultural approaches is that emotions can be thought of as roles that people fulfill to play out
culture specific identities and relationships
Averill argues that falling in love, like many emotions, acts as temporary social role provides outline script
for role of “lover” in which it’s permissible for other social roles to be suspended
Emotion of falling in love accomplishes transition from one structure of social relationship
o Mesquita contends that cultural approaches focus on “practice” of emotion, in contrast to “potential” for emotion
Potential = asking whether people of different cultures, if put in appropriate experimental situation, would be
capable of showing certain universal emotional responses answer is probably yes
Practice = what actually happens in people’s emotional lives. Day to day emotional experiences of people
from different cultures to differ
People from different cultures appear to be similar in emotion potential, especially when potential is
described at higher level of meaning, yet despite similarities in basic elements of emotional life, concrete
emotional realities (practices) in different cultures may widely vary
1. Self Construal Approach: Independent and Interdependent Selves
American Declaration of Independence and Analects of Confucius reflect radically different ideas
o Declaration prioritized rights and freedoms of people and protected individual from having rights infringed
o Confucius emphasized importance of knowing one’s place in society, of honouring traditions and roles, and of thinking
of others before self
o In West society, people concerned about individuality, about self actualizing, about freedom, and self expression “if
you got it, flaunt it”
o In Asian cultures, emphasizes community; homilies and folk wisdom encourage markedly different self “empty wagon
makes most noise”, “the nail that stands up is pounded down”
Markus, Kitayama and Triandis characterized 2 different kinds of self construal
o Independent self construal: self is autonomous and separate. Referred to as individualism. Imperative is to assert
distinctiveness and independence, and to define self according to unique traits and preferences. In explaining human
behaviour, focus on internal causes like own dispositions or preferences, which are thought of as stable across time and
social context
o Interdependent, or collectivists, self construal, self is fundamentally connected with others. Imperative is to find one’s
status, identity and roles within community and other collectives. In explaining human action the emphasis is on social
context and situational influences on behaviour. One thinks of self as embedded within social relationships, roles and
duties with self that is ever changing
How do culture specific self-construals lead to cultural variations in emotions?
o Marku sand Kitayama report that anger is considered highly inappropriate between relations or colleagues in Japan.
Anger between Americans who know and like each other is common
o Averill found in Massachusetts, by means of people keeping diaries structured like questionnaires, that incidents of
anger occurred about once a week most said reason for anger was to assert authority or independence or improve
Culture related differences may show how Japanese and NA infants respond to anger expressions of parents
o Miyake showed toys to NA and Jap infants of 11 months, pairing each toy with mothers voice expression joy, anger or
o Measuring time it took infants to start moving toward toy after hearing mom’s expression, NA and Japs no different in
how soon they moved for joy and fear
o Cultural differenced pronounced when anger used Americans moved toward toy 18 seconds later, but Japs took
longer, about 48 secs - Japs more inhibited by mother’s angry expressions because rare and highly negative events
Independent and interdependent self-construals appear to be at work in culture related differences in evaluation of more positive
o In Japan, there is emotion amae, no translation
o Amae: emotion of interdependence, arising from kind of merged togetherness, from comfort in other person’s
complete acceptance. Has no approved place in Western life. It is emotion of accepting relationship within family, and
valued as mutual dependency between lovers
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