Cultural differences in perceiving emotions

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Washington, Mar 6 (UNI) East Asians perceive people in terms of their relationship with others, unlike their North American counterparts who focus on the facial expression of the particular person whose feelings they are trying to figure out, a US study shows.

Canadian researchers studying cultural differences in assesing situations, found that North Americans isolated a person from the surroundings when trying to understand his or her emotions.

On the contrary, East Asians considered the emotions of other people in the situation, whose facial experssions, they thought were an informative source to understand the particular person's emotion, the researchers said.

The research, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, conducted two studies. In one, participants were allowed to view images which consisted of one centre model and four background models in each image.

The researchers manipulated the facial emotion (happy, angry, sad) in the centre or background models and asked the participants to determine the dominant emotion of the centre figure.

Majority of the participants from East Asia reported that their judgments of the centre person's emotions were influenced by the emotions of the background figures, while most North Americans reported they were not influenced by the background figures at all.

''This is because the attention of the East Asians is not concentrated, but includes everyone in the group,'' Psychology professor from the University of Alberta Takahiko Masuda said.

In a second study, the researchers monitored the eye movements of the participants, which again revealed that Eastern people looked at their surroundings more than the Westerns when judging the situation.

''While all the participants looked at the central figure during the first second of viewing the image, the Easterns looked at the background figures the very next second, and the westerners continued to focus on the central figure,'' Masuda said.

East Asians seem to have a more holistic pattern of attention, perceiving people in terms of the relationships to others, as they are accustomed to ''read the air'' of the situation through their cultural practices.

Whereas, people raised in the North American tradition often find it easy to isolate a person from their surroundings, he said.


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