According to a new study, individuals from Western cultures are more willing to express positive emotions than those from Eastern cultures. “All around the world, people should generally want to feel positive emotions and avoid feeling negative emotions,” said Yuri Miyamoto of the Department of Psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “Depending on individuals and situations, people sometimes try to down-regulate positive emotions. For example, when experiencing positive emotions, people low in self-esteem tend to become anxious and dampen their positive emotions compared with people high in self-esteem.” Miyamoto believes that cultural differences influence how people regulate their response to positive emotions. “In Western culture, the dominant cultural script is to maximize positive emotions and minimize negative emotions,” said Miyamoto. “Although positive emotions are generally considered to be more desirable and appropriate than negative emotions are across cultures, positive emotions are considered to be more desirable in Western cultures than in Eastern cultures, whereas negative emotions are considered to be more undesirable in Western cultures than in Eastern cultures.”
In an effort to provide support for this theory, Miyamoto interviewed East Asian and European American undergraduates after they recalled specific positive memories. He found that all of the participants wanted to experience and savor their positive emotions, but the East Asian participants were more prone to minimize the impact of the positive memory. Additionally, Miyamoto found that the East Asian students continued to experience less positive emotions than the European Americans even a full day after the event. “Overall, these results suggest that a dialectical cultural script not only underlies cultural differences in hedonic emotion regulation but also has consequences on subsequent emotional experiences.” Miyamoto said, “This might have practical implications, for instance, for therapists.” He added, “Therapists may want to be aware that a lack of hedonic emotion regulation might not be necessarily indicative of a mental health problem for Asians. Instead, helping Asians strive to achieve a more ‘middle way’ in their emotion regulation strategies might lead to optimal mental health.”
Miyamoto, Yuri, and Xiaoming Ma. “Dampening or Savoring Positive Emotions: A Dialectical Cultural Script Guides Emotion Regulation.” Emotion 11.6 (2011): 1346-347. Print.
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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