Culture Shapes Perception of Emotions

TOKYO, Sept. 20 (UPI) — Dutch people determine emotion by paying attention to facial expressions, while Japanese people tend to depend more on tone of voice, researchers say.

Akihiro Tanaka of Waseda Institute for Advanced Study in Tokyo and colleagues say perception of emotion is culture-specific.


The study, published in Psychological Science, suggests Japanese people tend to hide their negative emotions by smiling, so Japanese people may be used to listening for emotional cues. However, a Dutch person, who expects voice and face to match, may see a smiling face and think everything is fine and not notice the upset tone in the voice.

“Our findings can contribute to better communication between different cultures,” Tanaka said in a statement.

Tanaka and colleagues made a video of actors saying a phrase with a neutral meaning “Is that so?” both angrily and happily and both in Japanese and Dutch. The videos were edited so that they also showed someone saying the phrase angrily but with a happy face, and happily with an angry face.

The study participants watched the videos in their native language and in the other language and were asked whether the person was happy or angry.

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