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How does culture impact on the expression of emotion?

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  • Essay length: 1845 words
  • Submitted: 11/05/2009
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University Degree Applied Sociology

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How does culture impact on the expression of emotion?

"Any emotion, if it is sincere, is involuntary" - Mark Twain.

Mark Twain's famous words quoted above suggest that human emotions are expressed involuntarily, and that their expression is a universally inherent part of human nature. Whilst some psychologists maintain this, others propose that culture produces variations in the ways in which emotions are expressed throughout the world and that the "involuntary" nature of emotion is subject to cultural influence. The definition given by Answers.com, which states that emotion is "a mental state that arises spontaneously rather than through conscious effort, and is often accompanied by physiological changes", supports Twain's theory that humans cannot choose whether or not to express a particular emotion. However, this is not to say that culture is unable to influence these involuntary actions. It is this concept wherein lies the quandary for many psychologists. Hereafter I aim to outline the evidence provided by psychological studies for the expression of emotion in terms of universality and cultural impact, and to ultimately determine how culture impacts on the ways in which emotions are expressed.

The universal nature of the expression of emotion

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