Cultural differences in perceiving and processing emotions: A holistic approach to person perception

R. Thora Bjornsdottir, Konstantin O. Tskhay, Keiko Ishii, Nicholas O. Rule

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East Asians tend towards holistic styles of thinking whereas Westerners generally think more analytically. Recent work has shown that Western participants perceive emotional expressions in a somewhat holistic manner, however. Specifically, Westerners interpret emotional facial expressions differently when presented with a body displaying a congruent versus incongruent emotional expression. Here, we examined how processing these face-body combinations varies according to cultural differences in thinking style. Consistent with their proclivity towards contextual focus, Japanese perceivers focused more on the body when judging the emotions of face-body composites. Moreover, in line with their greater tendency towards holistic perceptual processing, we found that pairing facial expressions of emotion with emotionally congruent bodies facilitated Japanese participants’ recognition of faces’ emotions to a greater degree than it did for Canadians. Similarly, incongruent face-body combinations impaired facial emotion recognition more for Japanese than Canadian participants. These findings extend work on cultural differences in emotion recognition from interpersonal to intrapersonal contexts with implications for intercultural understanding.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-124
Number of pages20
JournalCulture and Brain
Publication statusPublished - 25 Oct 2017

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