• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

How does culture impact on the expression of emotion?

Extracts from this document...


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 The idea that humans throughout the world express their emotions in the same way has a biological basis. ...read more.


393). Although much of the evidence in support of universality has a biological basis, the study of language also provides elements of cross-cultural similarity with regards to the expression of emotion. For example, a study by a Chinese psychologist who did a comparison of novels both from China and the West identified parallels in the ways in which emotions were portrayed in fiction from both regions. For example, many physiological reactions to emotion such as flushing, trembling and goose pimples were evident in both Chinese and Western writing (Ibid, pp. 392). The impact of culture on the expression of emotion Despite the fact that many psychologists have shown that ways of expressing emotions are universal in nature, many believe that the expression of emotion is dependent on an individual's culture. Studies have shows that a set of cultural display rules exist which state how emotions should be expressed in particular social situations and which behaviours are appropriate when expressing an emotion (Ibid, pp. 392). Cultural display rules are not universal and vary cross-culturally. For example, in some cultures, behaviour deemed acceptable following the loss of a close friend or relative is that of openly crying as a sign of mourning, whereas in others, singing and dancing is the norm (Ibid, pp. ...read more.


For instance, English speakers use categories such as sad, angry, disgusted and happy to describe how they are feeling. Malay speakers, on the other hand, use categories of sedih, marah, jijik and gembira, which do not match English categories (Ibid, pp. 24). In fact, the closest word in Malay, marah, to the English word angry, is not associated with violence and aggression; but more feelings of resent and upset, which is related to Malay attitudes towards emotional expression of violence and aggression (Ibid, pp. 240). In this way, lexicon is able to provide "clues to the emotional universe of a culture" (Ibid, pp. 34). Conclusions Although the evidence provided by Darwin to suggest that facial expressions are universal and that humans are born with the capacity to express the same set of emotions in the same ways, I believe that universality ends with facial expression alone, and that even though facial expressions are largely universal, our culture affects all other aspects of emotion expression. Culture exerts its influence in three main ways; by providing a set of cultural display rules, which determine the appropriateness of displaying certain emotions in different social situations, by shaping the norms in both individualistic and collectivist cultures, and through language. In this way, the universality of emotion provides culture with a base, from which the moulding and shaping can start (Matsumoto & Juang, 2004, pp. 230), changing the ways in which humans both express and perceive emotions. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our University Degree Applied Sociology section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related University Degree Applied Sociology essays

  1. American Culture. It is evident that part of the definition of contemporary American ...

    The United States is not the world's biggest country, but most Americans like to think it is and act as if it were. The richness and enormity of American resources make the nation virtually self-sufficient in many areas, most notably in agriculture.

  2. Is globalization new and inevitable? Discuss with reference to EITHER culture, economics OR politics.

    Intensification of flows implies, that the impacts of events on one side of the world are felt more strongly than before on the other side of the world. In Chernobyl the explosion had an effect on the local environment as well as on the environment thousands of miles away.

  1. Attitudes towards Depression: Developing a Reliable and Valid Questionnaire

    62% of participants said spontaneously that they would consult their GP if they became depressed, and a further 17% agreed with this when prompted. However, a majority still felt they would be embarrassed, and half would worry that the GP would regard them as 'unbalanced' or 'neurotic'; 58% felt that GPs just tend to give out pills for depression".

  2. Summary on the situation of foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong

    labour supplied by the less developed economy namely Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand and Sri Lanka and the paid domestic work became increasingly important as greater numbers of women received education and joined the formal sectors. The overseas migration of Filipino domestic helpers started in 1972 when the Philippine government adopted labour

  1. Discussing the globalization of the economy and the globalization of culture.

    the information age, many aspects of the economy now work through networks that cross national boundaries, rather than stopping at them (Castrells 1996). Businesses and cooperation have had to restructure themselves to be more flexible and less hierarchical in nature in order to remain competitive in a rapidly changing global market.

  2. This evaluation study will thoroughly study factors that influence teen pregnancy and parenting on ...

    We have also discussed how this can take its toll on the self-esteem of the obese adolescents. It is through the aforementioned conclusions that we can assume that the ideal body image and the degradation of the overweight adolescents has a huge part to play in the association of self-control over ones? weight and self esteem (Goold 2004).

  1. Popular Culture Essay. In my essay I will scrutinise feminism in advertising. We live ...

    Radical feminism puts all the exploitation of women on men (Gidens 2009). Radical feminists believe that men are the beneficiaries from women subordination. Valarie Bryson (1999) says radical feminists see women as an oppressed group who had to free themselves from their oppressors in this case men (Haralambos & Holborn 2008, p 101).

  2. Research - In this assignment, we are trying to find the factors and effects ...

    The first and fifth question is ask respondents what is the choice they spend much time and what they usually do via Internet. It is require rate letter in the box. Question 2 to question 5 are related to how much time surf Internet per day, when do spend time

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work